National Broadband Plan Coverage – An Election Special

Universal coverage?

Christmas has passed and it’s time to sober up and take a look at what the Department are saying to prospective NBP tenderers rather than the froth reserved for the general public.

The bad news is that all the talk of a comprehensive and conclusive broadband solution has been premature. According to the Project Information Memorandum, tenderers will be invited to submit bids on a sliding scale of coverage. Each percentage point below 100% is to yield a saving to the government in the form of a reduced subsidy. The unlucky ones – it could be 22,500 homes or more – will receive something called “Minimum Non-Standard NGA Service Requirements”. No hint is given as to just how “non-standard” this NGA service will be, except to say it will be a ‘step-change’ above the homeowner’s current service. Both the final percentage coverage and the quality of “Non-Standard NGA” will ultimately be determined by the whole Government.

None of which will surprise veterans of the previous National Broadband Scheme and Rural Broadband Scheme who will be well used to diminishing commitments from DCENR. This time the Department has explained its backsliding thus;

“the Strategy recognises that the economics of achieving this aspiration (ubiquitous availability) may result in an unacceptably high, unaffordable subsidy requirement.”

Conclusion

So it seems the National Broadband Plan is neither “universal”, “conclusive” nor “comprehensive”; it is instead merely “aspirational”. Coverage is now at the mercy of – let’s face it – uninformed cabinet members with competing spending interests of their own.

IrelandOffline would dearly love to hear from a political party that will commit publicly to 100 percent NGA coverage as originally advertised.

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