Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has faced questions about his acknowledgement for the first time yesterday that the controversial National Broadband Plan will cost €3bn.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that for years, parts of rural Ireland have been without broadband. They have been told since 2012 that broadband with a speed of a minimum of 30 megabytes per second will be made available for every home and business in the country no matter how remote they are.
He said that various ministers have repeated that since 2011, but yesterday that Taoiseach announced the cost of the broadband would be €3 billion.
He questioned how the bidders to the process believed that the maximum subvention from the taxpayer would be €500m and that has now "ballooned" to €3 billion.
He called on the Taoiseach to explain the rise in the cost of the National Broadband Plan.
He asked for clarity on the suggestion that the assets will not belong to the State after the process. He also asked if the Government is satisfied that the Granahan McCourt bidder has the capacity to deliver the project.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that back in 2012, when the NBP was announced, only about 20% of homes and business had high speed broadband and that is now up to 75%.
He said now is the time for Government to intervene and supply the last 25%.
Mr Varadker said that the memo brought to Cabinet by then Minister Pat Rabbitte in 2014 was for 1,100 villages and the estimate was for €512m.
He said that at any point if the contractor fails to deliver, the Government can step in.
He said that more work needs to be done and the next step will be for the Government to accept the bid.
The Fianna Fáil leader accused the Taoiseach of "managing" the issue from a public relations perspective.
He questioned why there is so much secrecy around the project. He asked what the overall cost is estimated to be.
The Taoiseach said the decision is yet to be made by Cabinet about whether or not to accept the bid.
He said that in the past 20 years, the Government has invested €40m in roads, €10 billion in a new sewage and water network, but very little has been invested in the communications sector.
The Taoiseach said the National Broadband Plan "will not be done cheaply and will not be done quickly."
Leo Varadkar told the Dáil the Government had yet to make a decision to accept a bid or a preferred bidder for the plan.
He was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald who criticised the handling of the process as "utterly chaotic".
She said: "Half a million homes businesses and farms are left in the lurch."
Ms McDonald said the final cost at up to €3 billion was six times more than the original cost.