Improving access to speedier broadband

Broadband cabinet.
Broadband cabinet.

Eighty-nine per cent of premises in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area now have access to Superfast broadband (download speed of 30Mbits/s or more), according to UK communications regulator Ofcom.

That’s four per cent better than the Northern Ireland-wide figure of 85 per cent.

According to figures contained in Ofcom’s Connected Nations 2017 report, 48 per cent of homes and businesses in the local area can now avail of broadband with speeds of more than 100Mbit/s, but only 17 per cent can currently get Ultrafast broadband (more than 300Mbit/s).

That figure for Ultrafast broadband coverage is well behind Belfast (85 per cent), Derry City and Strabane (44 per cent) and Antrim and Newtownabbey (38 per cent), but well ahead of the other seven local authority areas.

Across Northern Ireland, the number of homes and offices unable to get a decent broadband connection has fallen by 7,000 within a year, but some 56,000 premises still cannot get a good connection.

The report shows broadband remains worse in rural areas, where properties are often situated a long way from the telephone exchange or local street cabinet. Around 23 per cent of rural premises in Northern Ireland (53,000) are not getting basic broadband services, compared to just one per cent in urban areas.

Jonathan Rose, Ofcom Northern Ireland Director, said: “Broadband coverage is improving, but our findings show there’s still urgent work required before people and businesses get the services they need.

“We expect the picture to continue to improve on the back of a number of government funded UK-wide and regional initiatives that have and are being undertaken to improve broadband speeds, especially in rural areas.

“Everyone should have good access to the internet, wherever they live and work. So we are supporting plans for universal broadband, and promoting investment in full-fibre technology that can provide ultrafast, reliable connections.”

Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who recently with the Digital Minister Matthew Hancock MP at Westminster to press for progress on enhancing broadband coverage in Northern Ireland, commented: “As a key element of our Agreement with the Government at Westminster, the DUP has secured a commitment to an additional investment of £150m in enhancing broadband coverage in Northern Ireland, including in the Lagan Valley area. This funding can also be matched by the private sector.

“There is a particular deficit in some rural areas where local residents have little or no broadband access. This is totally unacceptable. We are in ongoing discussion with the Government to agree on how the broadband programme will be taken forward in the absence of an Executive at Stormont and had a meeting this week with the Digital Minister Matthew Hancock MP at the Department for Digital, Culture & Media. The Minister assured us that he is committed to delivering high speed broadband for all consumers in Northern Ireland, including in rural areas, and there are advanced plans to implement the next phase that will involve a major investment in Ultrafast broadband, putting Northern Ireland ahead of the rest of the UK.

“I am committed to ensuring that the city of Lisburn and the towns and villages throughout the Lagan Valley constituency benefit from the roll-out of Ultrafast broadband and that rural communities are included in the programme to enhance the quality of broadband available to all households and businesses.”