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Answers demanded: How will £150m broadband promise benefit Newry and Armagh?

Department and Secretary of State urged to outline investment plans

Calls have been made for a detailed plan to be produced to show just how the £150 million extra cash promised for broadband will be spent.

The Department of the Economy and Secretary of State James Brokenshire are being urged to outline what will be done and when and how it will benefit people living in Newry and Armagh.

One local MLA says he believes the huge investment announced for ‘ultra-fast broadband’ could make a difference.

But the SDLP’s Justin McNulty is of the opinion that it could go on updating the existing network instead of making adequate broadband provision available to all.

Householders and businesses in the area continue to experience connection issues and it is having an adverse effect on day-to-day life for everyone in the area.

Now the potential is there to make a change, and Mr McNulty says it is important to hold the Department and Secretary of State in the spotlight to ensure that it does.

Any additional investment in broadband is very much welcome, especially in rural border communities who are struggling to get any broadband connection at all,” he said. “But we need to see details on where it will be spent and what it will actually deliver. 

“We constantly get announcements on additional investment, but it never actually means anything to people in places like Poyntzpass, Granemore, Derrynoose, Cullyhanna or other areas in rural South Armagh. 

“The BT van never leaves our roadsides but there are no improvements worth talking about and people are getting very frustrated.

“I  have sought full details on what this additional investment will mean to places like Newry and Armagh.  This announcement commits to ‘ultra-fast broadband’ but doesn’t define what it is. 

“We are supposed to be rolling out ‘super-fast broadband’ so what is the difference between the two schemes? 

“I fear this announcement will see the further upgrading of the existing network and not see actual improvements to the areas of greatest need where families, farmers and businesses have a poor service at the minute. 

“This would be completely unacceptable and would be a further example of what some people believe, that life in the North doesn’t exist beyond Belfast or Lisburn.

Access to a high-quality fast broadband service is not a luxury, it is a necessity. People need access to broadband for work, business, study and leisure. Businesses are telling me the lack of broadband is costing them money and impacting their competitiveness.

“Families are telling me children cannot complete their homework or study. Farmers are unable to complete their online forms.

“We need to see real improvement in rural broadband as a priority, and not just in business parks in Belfast.”

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