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Northern Ireland Finds Extra GBP1m to Help Improve Rural Broadband

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 (9:21 pm) - Score 822
northern ireland uk

Remote rural areas in Northern Ireland have been given yet another boost after a further investment of £1 million was extracted from the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) budget in order to help expand the reach of faster broadband and fuel uptake.

At present the vast majority of Northern Ireland is already quite well served with Next Generation Access (NGA) Internet infrastructure and Ofcom’s 2014 Infrastructure Report put the coverage figure at 94%, although this falls to just 77% for those able to receive superfast broadband (24Mbps+) speeds (here).

The on-going Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project, which began in February 2014 with an investment of £23.5m, currently aims to expand the reach of BT’s “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services to 45,000 premises by December 2015 and this was recently boosted by a second splash of £17m to help 38,000 premises get “superfast” speeds (here).

Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neil, said:

Since I took up the post of Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, I have prioritised providing the services which help tackle isolation in rural areas. Right at the top of this list is the roll out of rural broadband across the north. By the end of March 2015, my Department had invested £7.5million in rural broadband.

The initial part of this investment has already seen some 17,000 rural dwellers, farms and businesses getting access the internet, whilst the most recent phase of our funding will enable up a further 14,000 rural people to get connected if they wish.”

By contrast the exact plan for how the latest allocation of £1 million will be spent is less clear, although the suggestion is that it will probably go towards both encouraging uptake and possibly supporting some niche deployments in specific rural areas (e.g. community-led wireless broadband solutions).

Michelle O’Neil added:

At this year’s Balmoral Show, I launched the Rural Superfast Guide, which is a joint project between my department and BT, to help rural communities capitalise on the internet and to highlight the benefits of superfast broadband in supporting rural economic growth.

I recently paid a visit to Greencastle Co Tyrone to mark the successful completion of the Village Telecommunication Broadband Project which aimed to deliver a wireless telecommunication solution for that small rural community. The project was supported with £31,640 capital investment from Assisting Rural Communities North West (ARC NW) under Axis 3 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) and successfully delivered by Omagh District Council and Greencastle Community Association.

I witnessed for myself how broadband has provided an improved quality of service for local rural businesses and their customers. I am delighted that around 170 businesses including farmers, community organisations and households are benefiting from the increased broadband provision in that small area.”

In many ways, at least in terms of broadband, Northern Ireland appears to be in a significantly better position than some parts of the United Kingdom. Never the less even deployments with extremely strong coverage can leave gaps and it’s encouraging to see that investment is still being made to tackle those.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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1 Response
  1. Karen Fitzsimmons

    Absolutely fed up with all these false promises from everyone. If we are lucky my neighbours and I get a speed of 1.5MB (yes 1 point 5). Local cabinet is enabled but still too far away for us to get any decent speed. We are NOT up a mountain, we are not even half way up a mountain. We are ONE mile from the main Enniskillen to Omagh Road and are surrounded by 3 enabled telephone exchanges. If I do a telephone check I am promised speeds of “up to” 80MB, but when I speak to engineers they say the cabinet is far too far away and I’d be lucky to get 2MB, what a farce. When are we going to be told the truth?

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