The Government has published the contract for the National Broadband Plan, nine months after the €3 billion project was given the formal go ahead.

However, large swathes of the documents have been redacted, as they have been deemed commercially sensitive.

The 25 year long contract, awarded to the National Broadband Ireland consortium, will require it to deliver high speed broadband to 540,000 homes, farms and businesses across the country that cannot currently get it over a seven year period.

The contract runs to more than 1,500 pages and includes a massive amount of technical detail about the workings of the project.

However, those who had campaigned for its publication are likely to be disappointed by the substantial number of redactions.

Key sections, such as Subsidy Payments and Operational Performance have been partially redacted because they have been deemed to be "Commercially Sensitive".

Other sections, including Key Subcontractor Provisions and Key Personel have not been published at all.

David McCourt, chairman of National Broadband Ireland

The winning National Broadband Ireland consortium is led by Granahan McCourt, a US based private investment firm that is focused on telecoms and technology, led by Irish-American businessman, David McCourt, who is the chairman of National Broadband Ireland.  

Other members include Mr McCourt's long-time associate and Berkshire Hathaway board member, Walter Scott, as well as partners enet, Actavo, KN Group, Nokia and the Kelly Group.

The documents detail the ownership structure, with a number of the key companies co-owned by the Minister for Communications and Metallah Ltd, which lists as its directors Mr McCourt, Mr Scott and five other individuals with addresses in the US and UK. 

In a statement, National Broadband Ireland said the NBP represents one of the most complex and comprehensive contracts ever to have been entered into in the State.  

"This is the first time that a contract of this nature has ever been published, and provides public transparency for this critically important State aided national infrastructure project," it said.

"While some of the contract schedules - or part of those schedules - contain commercially sensitive information which is not published, the contract for the NBP contains extensive obligations for NBI to comply with and provides extensive rights for the State; including milestones for NBI to meet, and performance levels which must be achieved."

"These are among the most onerous of any contract of its type."

Work on rolling out the network is now well underway, with surveying taking place across the country and building of infrastructure has begun this month. 

It is expected that the first premises will be connected either late this year or early next year.

The Programme for Government committed to accelerating the delivery of the plan.

NBI has stated that it expects it will be completed under budget and earlier than it has committed to.

Originally, the tender required the winner to provide a service with a minimum download speed of 30Mbps.

But recently NBI initially promised a minimum of 150Mbps and recently said this would rise to 500Mbps.

The project has not been without controversy though.

In 2018, the then Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, resigned amid controversy about private meetings he had with Mr McCourt.

A Government commissioned review later found that the procurement process was not influenced by the contacts between the two men.

The cost of the plan to the State also escalated considerably, from a predicted €500m to €3bn.

Last year it emerged that eir, the telecoms company that withdrew from the tendering process, had claimed it could complete the NBP for €1bn.

It was also revealed that the secretary general at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had warned the Government that the plan posed great financial risks and only questionable benefits.

The Government also faced criticism for its decision to opt for a model that will see NBI retain ownership of the network at the end of the 25 year contract.