Investment in rural broadband could generate £1.2bn for NI economy

Investment in superfast broadband in rural areas could be worth £1.2 billion to the Northern Ireland economy

INVESTMENT in rural broadband could generate up to £1.2 billion for the north's economy, a new report has said.

The report, published by the Northern Ireland Broadband Industry Forum states that investment to bring ultrafast connectivity to rural areas could help Northern Ireland become the UK’s best-connected nation. This is if an existing £150m government fund is used to target rural areas to deliver ultrafast fibre broadband.

To support Northern Ireland’s long-term ambition of becoming a digital leader, the research calls for greater private investment in future-proof fibre connectivity and greater focus on deploying ultrafast broadband in rural areas.

Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland director and chair of the Northern Ireland Broadband Industry Forum said investment in broadband is essential to grow the local economy.

“Investment in new future-proof broadband infrastructure is vital to overcoming decades of neglect and unlocking the potential of businesses across Northern Ireland. Using the Northern Ireland broadband fund effectively will attract private investment, help create jobs, grow the economy and deliver broadband that’s fit for the future.”

Permanent secretary at the Department for the Economy, Noel Lavery said it recognised the importance of faster broadband for economic development.

"This report is timely and will help inform the department’s thinking on how best to utilise the confidence and supply investment for broadband. We will continue to engage with the Northern Ireland Broadband Industry Forum and other stakeholders as we consider the best way forward to improve broadband access for everyone in Northern Ireland.”

The north currently lags behind the rest of the UK in terms of superfast broadband access, with around 100,000 premises in Northern Ireland forced to contend with speeds of less than 30Mbps, while one in five are unable to access a connection of 10Mbps.

The new report comes shortly after the UK government announced its blueprint to become a world leader in digital connectivity by accelerating the rollout of gigabit-capable connections. The government’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review sets out a long-term strategy that will increase competition amongst infrastructure providers and create an environment which stimulates private investment in ultrafast broadband.

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