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National Broadband Plan can be delivered on time and on budget, committee to hear

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National Broadband Plan can be delivered on time and on budget, committee to hear

National Broadband Plan can be delivered on time and on budget, committee to hear
September 17
10:00 2021

National Broadband Ireland chief to say project could even be completed early

The company tasked with building the State’s high-speed rural broadband network still believes the project can be delivered on time or earlier, as well as on budget, despite disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Peter Hendrick, the chief executive of National Broadband Ireland (NBI), is to make the remarks as he updates the Oireachtas communications committee on the rollout of the plan.

The Government has committed to accelerating the rollout of the €3 billion National Broadband Plan (NBP) but the work to build the high-speed rural broadband network has been hit by the Covid-19 emergency.

NBI has cut its target for the number of premises “passed” by the network this year from 115,000 to 60,000.

However, Mr Hendrick is expected to tell TDs and Senators in his appearance before the committee on Wednesday: “We believe that despite the extreme and turbulent conditions faced throughout the past 19 months due to Covid-19, the work of our team provides a platform and gives us confidence to deliver the project on time – or earlier – and on budget.”

His opening statement says the original volume projections for the rollout were conceived pre-Covid and “could never have predicted or accounted for the operational environment created by the global pandemic”.

Disruption

He says NBI was scaling construction work at the beginning of 2021 when there was a sudden and significant increase in Covid-19 cases.

To give the committee context on the level of disruption to the construction programme, Mr Hendrick says that between December 2020 and March 2021 one of NBI’s major contractors faced having 40 per cent of its total workforce unable to work due to Covid-19 cases or personnel being close contacts.

Mr Hendrick says the impact of the disruption “meant that by April 2021, we had to re-baseline the plan for 2021, targeting 60,000 premises for year-end”.

He says the NBI team “is as frustrated as anyone with the fact that the pandemic has disrupted our original plans” and their principle objective is “delivering high-speed broadband to homes, farms, schools and businesses as quickly as possible”. He said this means finding ways to recover delays to the programme.

‘Major achievements’

Mr Hendrick will assure the committee that NBI is “very positively disposed to bringing forward the overall completion of the project, a goal that we believe is achievable”. He says in the statement: “This principally involves bringing forward the completion timescales for premises currently scheduled to be passed in years 2025 and 2026.”

Mr Hendrick will list “major achievements” despite “operating for 19 out of 21 months in an environment where Covid-19 has caused unprecedented disruption”. These include surveying more than 251,000 premises and how more than 20,000 premises are currently able to place their order for broadband via their preferred retail service provider, rising to 60,000 premises in December.

Source: The Irish Times

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