The Cabinet has heard today that the Government expect to sign the contract for the National Broadband Plan later this year.

Richard Bruton told his colleagues this would happen when all the legal and financial documents are finalised.

The contract with the consortium led by the US-based businessman David McCourt could cost the tax payer up to €3bn.

However Minister Bruton said it is crucial the Government moves to sign it.

"Work is progressing on finalising the contract for the National Broadband Plan," Mr Bruton said.

"It is crucial that we move to sign the contract so that the one million people who today are without access are not left behind," he added.

He also said that digital technology is transforming how people live and Government must make sure the people in rural Ireland have the same opportunities as those in towns and cities.

The Department of Communications also said that a proposal put forward by Eir for the National Broadband Plan is not feasible.

Representatives of Eir appeared at an Oireachtas committee last month to submit a detailed plan to Government on how it could roll-out the National Broadband Plan for less than €1bn.

In a statement, Minister for Communications Richard Bruton said that elements of Eir's proposal are not legal under procurement and State Aid rules.

Government further noted the significant progress made by the Department and the Preferred Bidder, National Broadband Ireland, in finalising the necessary legal and financial documents, since the approval of the appointment of Preferred Bidder on 7 May. 

Following on from Eir's appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on 28 June, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has concluded that the high level proposal put forward by the company is not a feasible alternative and has no impact on the decision to appoint a preferred bidder to the Plan.

Eir was one of the final bidders to the National Broadband Plan and under these terms, made a draft bid of €2.75bn before making the decision to withdraw from the process.

In a response sent to Eir today, it was outlined that the provision of a State subsidy to any company without competition is not legal under procurement and State Aid rules, nor would it meet the key objectives of the National Broadband Plan.

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