News & Media

ESB help for broadband plan confirms Labour position

30 August 2020

Statement by Duncan Smith TD
Party Whip and Spokesperson on Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport.

With the Business Post reporting today that the government is to ask for the help of the ESB with the rollout of the National Broadband Plan, Labour Communication Networks spokesperson Duncan Smith TD said it confirms the Labour position that the project should have remained in state ownership and been rolled out by a semi-state company.

Deputy Smith said:

“Nearly a year into the NBP contract, the government is now looking at bringing the ESB on board with rollout of the scheme despite signing a multi-billion contract with a private company that will retain ownership at the end of the project.

“The need to bring on board the state owned infrastructure confirms the Labour Party view that this project should have been state owned and rolled out by the semi state.

“If the Department now feels it can speed up rollout by using the ESB network it beggars belief that they didn’t go back to the drawing board and use the same network in the first place rather than continue with a “bidding” process that had only one participant by the end.

“Labour wants to see high speed rural broadband delivered as soon as possible but we also wanted the network kept in public ownership. By giving so much control over the rural broadband network to a private monopoly, there is a risk that the cost of broadband could become much more expensive once the 25-year contract is over.

“When the public sector delivered rural electrification, it was through a public enterprise that has served this country well and faithfully for generations, as a quality employer and as a profitable company that paid €1.5 billion in dividends to the State following the 2008 crash.

“That is why, modelled on rural electrification, we should have had an ESB-style National Broadband Company to retain control over prices into perpetuity and to eliminate the possibility of speculators taking over rural broadband when the public had paid for it.”