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Rural Northern Ireland gets £1m broadband boost

Wednesday, June 3rd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Rural communities in Northern Ireland are to get a £1m funding boost to help them access broadband.

The investment was announced yesterday (2 June) by Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill.

She said providing services to help tackle isolation in rural areas is a priority.

“Right at the top of this list is the rollout of rural broadband across the north,” she said.

“By the end of March 2015, my department had invested £7.5m 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 a further 14,000 rural people to get connected if they wish.”

Ms O’Neill said £1m from the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) budget is being invested in facilitating access to broadband for rural communities.

“I also want to encourage all representatives of rural bodies and individuals interested in the development of their local community to be aware of the broadband scheme under Priority 6 of the new Rural Development Programme,” she added.

“We have allocated £2m to a Rural Broadband Scheme which will provide opportunities for innovative community-led wireless broadband solutions to enhance access to an improved broadband service in rural areas.”

Tackling isolation

The minister said she wanted to encourage as many rural dwellers as possible to connect to broadband to give themselves and their families the same opportunities as those living in urban areas, to help tackle isolation.

A Rural Superfast Guide – a joint project between BT and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development – was launched earlier this year.

It is aimed at helping rural communities get online and highlights the benefits of superfast broadband.

“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,” said Ms O’Neill.

"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.”

She added that broadband provision is about more than tackling isolation.

“It is fast becoming a basic service and need for our rural communities.

“From children doing research for homework, to parents working or shopping online or interacting with local and central government, and with businesses now more than ever trading online in a global market place, it is imperative that rural areas are not disadvantaged when it comes to broadband provision.”

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