FERMANAGH’S politicians are singing off the one hymn sheet for once, with regard to calls for the county to be prioritised for broadband improvement.
As part of the DUP’s £1 billion deal parliamentary support deal with the Conservatives last year, £150m was ring-fenced to improve broadband services across the North. Following a long delay due to the collapse of Stormont, the Department for the Economy has now announced “preparation work” has begun. The Department will be consulting with political and industry stakeholders on where the improvements will be made.
Sean Lynch MLA said Sinn Fein would be pushing for the investment to be made west of the Bann, stating it was “an issue of equality”. His party colleague and fellow MLA, Jemma Dolan, agreed.
“Broadband problems are one of the most common issues I have been dealing with since I got elected,” she said. “Fermanagh has one of the highest proportion of homes and businesses without access to superfast broadband.
“Given the recent NISRA statistics revealing that almost the whole of the county is within the top 100 of the most deprived areas in the north when it comes to access to services, decent broadband provision is the least we deserve.
“Prioritising our area would meet objective need, promote equality between urban and rural communities, and ensure regionally balanced economic growth.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party’s deal with the Conservatives was to benefit everyone, including with regard to broadband.
“Access to broadband in rural areas like Fermanagh is a huge issue and I want to see this funding addressing those issues wherever possible,” said Ms Foster.
“We should take heart from the assessment of industry experts who have described is as having the potential to be “transformative” for both rural coverage and capacity in urban areas.”
The UUP’s Rosemary Barton MLA said there was huge demand for broadband in many parts of Fermanagh South Tyrone (FST).
“While in some areas there is 98% coverage of superfast broadband availability and they are pressing to have 100% coverage, in FST the coverage is just about 60% and in some areas it is not much over 30% coverage,” she said, adding the investment had been help up by the current lack of political leadership in the North.
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