Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has said rural areas in particular need to benefit from improved broadband after it was announced political parties would shortly be consulted on how best to use money to improve it here.
The Department for the Economy said preparation work, including engagement with political parties and industry stakeholders, is under way for the spending of £150 million, delivered as part of the DUP’s deal with the Conservative Government but yet to be released.
“The money identified has not yet been released. The tenders to enable work to commence have also not yet been drawn up. So while getting additional money for services is one thing, being able to put it to use is entirely another matter,” she said.
“Alliance has engaged in a number of meetings with broadband providers to try and get better services for residents, particularly in rural areas. The key issue has been lack of access to broadband. This investment could enable many rural residents to finally have access and could increase broadband speed for constituencies like Strangford. Improving access to broadband will not only help residents but also businesses and the economy as a whole, benefiting everyone in Northern Ireland.
“It is important rural areas in particular see a benefit, as many currently have limited or no broadband provision. We now have the opportunity to prioritise rural access to broadband. However, the company that wins the contract will need to be able to deliver our priority objectives within the timescales which limit how this money will be spent.”