Tipperary TD, Jackie Cahill has said that rural Ireland’s future is at risk if the National Broadband Plan isn’t rolled out in the next year.

Deputy Cahill was commenting after it was announced that the leading bidder for the project, Eir had pulled out citing commercial and governance concerns, leaving just one bidder, eNet in the field.

“I am deeply worried by Eir’s decision which comes less than six months on from them being awarded a very lucrative contract to roll out, on a commercial basis, broadband to over 300,000 households in easier to reach communities.

“Have they decided that the remaining 542,000 homes, including tens of thousands in Tipperary, aren’t worth the investment? If that’s the case, we have a major problem on our hands.

“My party has now serious concerns about the ability of the Government to deliver on its revised commitments, and people in rural communities are now questioning whether they will ever get the broadband they need keep pace with the cities and towns on the eastern coast.

“Broadband is the one service, that if put in place, can put a rural company on a level playing field with a city based company. It has the capacity to maintain and grow jobs in rural communities, and stop the constant migration to the cities that is threatening the fabric of rural Ireland.

“Minister Naughten has serious questions to answer. He has failed to prioritise the roll out of high speed broadband to rural areas and now it appears as if the NBP is hanging by a thread.

“The Government must, I believe, look seriously at the model being used to deliver the NBP. Is it still the case that a private, commercial venture is the best option for the State, or should the State step in, and roll it out itself.

“Broadband has the potential to be game-changer for rural Ireland, but it needs the Government to stop talking about it, and start delivering a realistic, high quality and affordable service for rural communities.

“Tipperary farmers, business owners, students and ordinary homeowners cannot afford to wait any longer for broadband. It is risking their futures,” concluded Cahill.