“The viability of the National Broadband Plan is now under threat to such an extent that it is conceivable that no contract will be signed this side of 2020,” said Fianna Fáil’s Communications Spokesperson, Timmy Dooley TD as news emerged that SSE, a major component of e-Net’s bid, has pulled out from the process.

“Reports are emerging that SSE has informed fellow e-Net consortium partners that it is pulling out from the tendering process. As of yet, SSE has not outlined its reasons for pulling out but it’s clear as night follows day that the process has to date been so convoluted and bureaucratic that every major commercial player has not felt comfortable continuing.

“With ESB, Vodafone, Eir and now SSE all out, what hope is there for the 520,000 households in isolated and rural communities that they will see their homes and businesses connected in the next six to eight years?

“One has to question why e-Net has not to date been announced as the preferred bidder by the Department? They have been the sole remaining bidder since the spring?

“Minister Naughten must confirm when he became aware of SSE’s decision, and what his plans are into the future?

“Last February, Fianna Fáil put forward a comprehensive private members motion, which when passed by the Dáil called for a full independent expert review of the tendering process for the Broadband Plan. It should have been completed but the Government has failed to fulfil the wishes of the Dáil. This was, and remains, a major error on the part of Minister Naughten.

“When Eir pulled out, I, and many others, questioned the viability and suitability of continuing with the existing process. The Minister poured scorn repeatedly on our position, but nothing since then has increased my confidence in the deliverability of the National Broadband Plan as currently conceived.

“We need to hear from the Minister as to his next steps to ensure that the over half a million homes, businesses and farms get a quality broadband connection at a fair price,” concluded Dooley.