Rural communities should have access to proper digital infrastructure -Heaney

Sinn Féin Faughan representative Conor Heaney has said Broadband has become a vital component of 21st century living and its essential that people in rural communities has access to proper digital infrastructure

Conor Heaney said “Sinn Féin has long argued for the regional imbalance which exists in the north of Ireland to be addressed.

“Major projects like the A5 and A6 will bring huge benefits to those rural communities west of the Bann, not only in terms of road safety but economic benefits also. However, our digital infrastructure is just as important and the deficit that has developed between urban and rural communities needs to be addressed. The need for adequate speeds of broadband ranges from accessing public services online, children and students needing it for homework, shopping online, putting in business orders and paying wages.

“It is important for the rural home but equally as important for our rural economy and the many small and medium businesses spread throughout our rural towns and communities. Currently there are over 100,000 premises across the north of Ireland that cannot get access to adequate speeds of broadband over 30mbps or more, which is accepted as a baseline for a modern connection. In the 21st Century this isn’t acceptable and what is even more startling is that some areas cannot reach speeds of 3mbps.

Sinn Féín recognises that through the Department for Economies new broadband investment “Project Stratum”, the aspiration is to reach 98% of premises with future proofed broadband of speeds over 30mbps within the next 5 years. That will mean many of those premises with poor speeds in parts of our rural council areas will be targeted by this intervention. However, through our Councils Sinn Féin will continue to engage with Ofcom and the Department for Economy to push for adequate levels of broadband in those areas worst affected by poor speeds. Each home has the right to request that they get access to at least 10mbps under the Universal Service Obligation. We see potential through our Councils to increase co-operation with service providers and the service regulator.

“Our Council areas are best located to highlight the areas in need and assist with future intervention also.