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MLAs pledge to scrutinise BT works to provide rural broadband access

As a phased programme continues to introduce broadband access to so-called ‘not-spots’, two local MLAs have pledged to scrutinise the work being carried out by BT in this regard.

Sinn Fein’s Megan Fearon said it was essential that this key issue was highlighted on a regular basis until all rural homes and businesses throughout rural Newry and Armagh had access to the essential technology.

“There is a need for everyone to have an access to good quality broadband in rural areas,” she said.

“It is now an essential basic service that assists both householders in everyday life and helps rural businesses to grow, develop and prosper. We must all continue to highlight the issue until all concerns have been addressed and rural communities have access.”

She and colleague Cathal Boylan MLA have been actively engaged in highlighting concerns about the progress on broadband accessibility in rural areas and the restrictions this has on families, communities, farmers and businesses.

Ms Fearon continued: “In May of this year Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill announced that her department was investing £5 million towards the provision of rural broadband.

“Myself and my colleagues have been ensuring that the ‘not-spots’ of Newry and Armagh haven’t been forgotten. We have availed of opportunities to meet with BT representatives to discuss progress and have also submitted a series of questions to Enterprise and Trade Minuster Arlene Forster.

“These question include a request for an update on the current scheme of works to improve and extend rural broadband and we are also asking her to provide details on the process by which the roll-out of that programme has been planned, including the criteria which has been used to identify which areas to address.

“It is essential that Newry and Armagh is not forgotten about.”

Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan recently met again with BT and said he was given a commitment that he would be provided with more information regarding cabinet installations and upgrades.

“I will press them on postcodes as well,” he said.

“There are seven phases all together, totalling £23.5 million. Phase one and two are now complete.

“A total of 45,000 homes across the North have been targeted. Sinn Féin have also asked Minister Arlene Foster to provide precise details of the locations of the points of presence boxes that have been installed or upgraded through the completion of phases one and two of the scheme.”

The Sinn Féin representatives concluded by saying they would  continue to scrutinise the programme being rolled out by BT.

“Whilst these developments are welcome news we will continue to scrutinise BT to ensure they address the ‘not-spots’ and ensure value for money. We intend to continue to campaign for full broadband coverage to our rural communities.”

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