THE FANFARE surrounding the launch of the 5G network in Belfast last week has been branded “an insult to rural businesses and communities” here in Fermanagh, where many are struggling to reach even basic broadband speeds.
With last week’s launch of the super-fast mobile service, the ‘fifth generation’ of mobile internet technology, the North has become even more ill-divided when it comes to online access. Most residents in Belfast, which is will be one of the first six cities in the UK to have a 5G network, already have access to superfast home broadband. The 5G network will mean they will also have high speeds when out and about.
In Fermanagh home network coverage is slow or non-existent for many, and in most rural areas there is simply no mobile service never mind a superfast one. Even in Lisnaskea businesses have complained that slow broadband speeds are posing serious problems.
Cllr Adam Gannon, who is on the Council’s broadband working group, called the celebrations regarding last week’s launch “insulting.”
“The digital deficit across the North doesn’t just mean people in rural towns can’t access Netflix,” he said. “It means that rural businesses struggle to access online banking, make digital tax returns or offer the online presence that modern consumers expect as standard.
“It also means that students in places like Fermanagh can’t access reliable internet speeds for study or job applications. In an age where online services are a necessity, not an added luxury, it isn’t acceptable.”
The SDLP man added OFCOM’s obligation to provide a universal service was not being met here, and the issue needed “urgent attention.”
“Rural communities cannot continue to suffer from this digital divide. It is degrading our economy, our communities and providing further incentive for young people to leave our shores,” he said.
Meanwhile, south of the border protests have been held in many areas, including Bundoran by those worried about potential health risks of 5G masts.
Posted: 9:08 am June 5, 2019