Extra funding confirmed to extend rural broadband scheme

An additional £25 million from London will help extend Project Stratum to homes left outside the scope of the original scheme.

THE UK Government has confirmed an extra £25 million for the scheme delivering broadband to thousands of rural homes across the north.

Project Stratum aims to connect around 76,000 premises to high-speed internet by 2024.

Around £165m was originally budgeted for the project, with around £150m coming from the DUP's confidence and supply deal Teresa May's Government.

Fibrus was awarded the contract in November 2020.

But questions had persisted over a number of premises left outside the scope the major broadband infrastructure project.

Chief executive of Fibrus Dominic Kearns told a Stormont committee in April that the company was seeking to extend the network further, pointing to the additional funding being awarded under the UK Government's Project Gigabit initiative, which targets remote regions of the UK.

The Department for the Economy had been negotiating with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) in London over fresh funding.

UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed the extra £25m for Project Stratum this week.

He said it would connect around 8,500 more homes and businesses in very rural areas across the north, including areas in mid Ulster, Fermanagh and south Antrim.

Dominic Kearns, said Fibrus had now passed 5,500 homes under Project Stratum.

“Fibrus is already making big strides in addressing the digital imbalance which exists across rural parts of Northern Ireland through Project Stratum, and this additional investment will mean a significant number of premises in the digital wilderness of Northern Ireland will not get left behind,” he said.

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