Lochside Garage

Rural areas ‘set to lose out’ in new broadband scheme

WITH ALMOST everyone in the county spending all of their time at home at the moment, the importance of having a reliable broadband connection is more important than ever. 
However, for hundreds of households across the Fermanagh, a workable internet connection is a luxury not afforded to their area, particularly in rural parts. The bad news is, that is unlikely to improve any time soon due to a decision taken by Stormont before the Covid crisis even began. 
The £165 million Project Stratum scheme, which is being funded with £150 million from the DUP’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Conservative Party, was supposed to improve rural broadband across the North. It was hoped it would improve the connection of hundreds of homes here in the county. 
However, after submitting a question to the Assembly befo the lockdown, Cllr Adam Gannon has learned the project will now only apply to areas with a population of 1,000 or more. 
missing out
This, he said, would mean those who needed the project most will now miss out. 
Cllr Gannon said the new target population of the project would leave out the areas that need it most: “In Erne West I think the highest population is Derrylin, in the village itself where you have 600-700. You could very well be excluding the whole of west County Fermanagh on those numbers. I think it doesn’t go far enough at all.”
He said the money, that was supposed to be for rural broadband, should go to the area of most need.
“It should go to areas that will never get the intervention from a private supplier because a private supplier isn’t going to go and do the most rural areas. It’s not economical for them. “
This should have been used as an intervention in those areas,” he said, adding the people in these areas “have been long since abandoned.”

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