Big money in play as broadband rollout gets under way throughout 26 counties

Published date22 January 2022
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
The cables are a sign that this sparsely populated rural district will soon be connected to superfast broadband: "It's a massive task," says Malone, who is in charge of delivering on the promises made by National Broadband Ireland, the company responsible for the project

"It gets right down into every single village, every single home and any peninsula, including the islands," says Malone about a project that will eventually cover all the parts the State - 96 per cent of the total landmass, in fact - where subsidies are need to make broadband delivery possible.

With State funding of up to €2.6 billion in play, it's big money. Private investors have pledged €175 million and additional sums if needed that would bring the total to €223 million. So far, the investors have paid in €120 million, including €20 million of it in December.

There is no shortage of critics but NBI, whose chairman is Irish-American businessman David McCourt, is confident that it can complete the job under budget.

Work has begun on supplying 151,000 homes and businesses. In time, it will rise to cover 554,000 locations - connecting the residences of 1.1 million people, 54,000 farms and 44,000 businesses in a system that will be pass along virtually every metre of every rural road.

Fibre-optic cables stretching for 146,000km will go overhead for 89,494km - connecting 1.47 million telegraph poles - and those cables will run underground for 15,057km. And all of this is being done with the promise that the service will be "future-proofed" for 25 years, and capable of being expanded by a quarter.

Despite complaints about the pace of the rollout, work is now under way in each of the 26 counties. In Dublin, some of the vast industrial estates at Ballymount on the city's highly-developed western edges have been included.

Strange as it may seem, such locations are not deemed commercially viable by market operators, thus bringing "rural broadband" within the bounds of the M50 motorway around the capital, in sight of the Red Cow roundabout.

The delivery of broadband offshore is a different challenge entirely. A symbolic moment looms in coming weeks when the NBI system goes live on in four small Atlantic islands: Collanmore, Co Mayo; and the Donegal islands of Eighter, Eadarinis/ Inishcoo and Rutland.

"We are still the only country in Europe that has said that we will serve every single premises," Malone says. "The Department [of Communications] have said that no matter where you are, no matter...

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