The Minister for Communications has said that the Government does not see a cheaper way of delivering the National Broadband Plan that is compliant with State Aid rules.

However, Richard Bruton said that it will consider proposals made by Eir.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O’Rourke, the minister said that Eir has yet to supply details that would back up their argument that they could deliver the broadband plan for less than €1 billion.

Mr Bruton pointed out that the company made a tender of €2.7bn, then dropped out of the procurement process because it did not want to comply with a number of conditions.

He said that before any contract [with Granahan McCourt] is signed, the Government will fully examine all other options and efforts would be made to make sure there is not information "that would materially affect our decision to sign the contract".

If the Government was to consider Eir's proposal, he said, then a fresh procurement procedure would have to begin with the conditions of the competition remaining the same.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the Department of Communications has written to Eir to seek clarification on its CEO's comments that it could roll out the plan for less than €1bn.

Leo Varadkar said this was a "big turnaround" and officials were seeking clarification from Eir on "whether this offer is real, if it stacks up".

Last month, the department said that the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the NBP rose from €1bn to €3bn between December 2015 and April 2018.

Meanwhile, a public procurement specialist from Dublin City University said that the current tendering process for the NBP should be stopped as it will lead to overpricing and overcosting.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Paul Davis said that no contract has yet been signed with the preferred bidder, the McCourt consortium, and the "right thing to do" would be to stop the process now.

He said he did not think that looking again at the options will slow down the process, but instead allow the marketplace to drive the process.

Dr Davis said the suggestion by the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Robert Watt to begin an initial rollout stage while they go back and look at the market place to see what competitors can offer is the best way forward.

He said it is clear that Eir are saying "we already have an infrastructure in place and we can also hear Eir are saying we already have an infrastructure in place we can expand on that".

He said this would not lead to a legal action from the preferred bidder and whatever happens next, it will still take up to seven years to be fully rolled out nationally.

The Minister for Finance has said Eir made no mention of a proposition that could lead to a reduced cost for the National Broadband Plan in previous meetings with the Department of Communications, including one as recently as three weeks ago.

Paschal Donohoe said he has asked Eir why it is now coming forward with a proposition that has a lower cost than the proposition it put forward when it was inside the tendering process for the NBP.

He also said that Eir's removal of 300,000 homes from the catchment area of the NBP had a really big effect on the cost of the tendering process for the remaining homes.

Mr Donohoe said what he is more focused on now, rather than making a judgement on what Eir's intentions are, is understanding whether the proposition the company now has can make a difference to how the NBP could be delivered in a different way by Government.

"Given that the current contract for the National Broadband Plan process hasn't yet been signed, I don't think it would be fair for me now to indicate what we are going to do, apart from saying what is obvious that we need to do, which is exactly understand what eir are proposing," he said.

He added that he was not saying that the government is reconsidering the current plan. 

"We have a National Broadband Plan process that is under way. We are committed to signing a contract. But of course you'd only expect us to take time to understand the detail of a new proposition that appears to be developing," he said.

Additional Reporting Will Goodbody