Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications Timmy Dooley says the Government’s plan to hand over ownership of the proposed State-sponsored broadband infrastructure to private operators is deeply flawed.

Deputy Dooley wrote to Minister Denis Naughten almost two weeks ago to outline his concerns, and make clear that Fianna Fáil is opposed to what now appears to be the Government’s preferred option.

Deputy Dooley explained, “The roll out of broadband across the country must be a key priority for this Government, especially in remote and rural areas.  While I appreciate that commercial operations must be included as part of the national plan, I have grave concerns about handing over full ownership of the infrastructure to them.

“We need to ensure the evolving high-speed broadband needs of the area to be covered by this contract are met, and remain in step with those areas covered by the commercial marketplace, taking future technology advances into consideration and protecting the initial State investment.

“One specific factor will be the future roll out of 5G and future generation mobile technologies.  Positioning Ireland as a ‘mobile island’ is a core strategic priority for Fianna Fáil and certainty about the terms and conditions of access to the core broadband infrastructure into the future will be an important part of this.

“The needs and interests of the consumer will be best protected by the State retaining ownership.  While this option will have short term cost implications, the long term benefits to the consumer and the projected revenues to the State represents the best value for money.

“The Fianna Fáil position is clear – lessons have to be learned from the Eircom privatisation, which, in my opinion, has delayed the roll out of broadband across this country.  I want to see a public ownership model employed, whereby a private company would finance, build, operate and maintain the network, with the Government paying an upfront sum, and ownership reverting back to the State at the end of the 25 year contract.

“It is my intention to table an amendment to the Private Members Motion this week, giving the Dáil an opportunity to debate and take a vote on this important issue.