The preferred bidder for the National Broadband Plan will be responsible for €2.4bn of the cost of building, operating and maintaining the network, the Minister for Communications has said.

Richard Bruton said how that money is provided is up to National Broadband Ireland (NBI) but it could be generated through equity and user charges.

NBI will have to take responsibility for the overall amount though, he said, and come up with the funds.

Speaking in Co Wicklow this morning, he said that under the contract, NBI must provide initial equity, working capital and cover any risks encountered should they find the projections not fulfilled.

In such an event, he said, the consortium will have to inject new equity or new cash into the business to sustain it.

However, the minister declined to comment on Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed's claim on local radio that NBI was only putting up €200m in equity for the project, saying the contract has yet to be concluded.

But Mr Bruton said the model chosen was one designed to protect the taxpayer and the government has looked at every option and believes this is the best one.

All the other possibilities would either not have delivered the ambition or have delivered it at a higher cost or have imposed very lengthy delays, he stated.

He added that the State's exposure is capped so even if, as some people are predicting, it will be very difficult to persuade people to take up the service, NBI are carrying the risk.

Mr Bruton confirmed that the consortium is providing guarantees under the equity component of the contract and will have to meet obligations.

It will also have to have funds that the government can visibly see are available to the project, he claimed.

Putting it up to the Opposition, Mr Bruton said it is up to those who say it isn't the right project to say what is their view.

He said he is going to the Oireachtas Committee on Communications this week and his objective will be to convince people this is the best option.

The ESB was considered by the Government as a possible alternative method of delivering the NBP, he said, but it entered the original competition and withdrew at a certain point, he added.

If the Government was to start again it would have to cancel this competition and have a new procurement competition, he said, adding that there is every likelihood it would take another two to three years to deliver an outcome and every prospect that it would not be less expensive but the same or more expensive.