Northern Ireland to have “best broadband in Europe”
Northern Ireland will have the best fibre broadband network in Europe by early next year, according to a Government minister.
The country is midway through a £48 million BT fibre broadband rollout, which was part-funded by the EU. The deployment will give 95% of Northern Irish businesses access to a connection of at least 5Mbits/sec by the spring of next year.
“Britain aims to have the best superfast broadband by 2015,” said Arlene Foster, minister for enterprise and trade at a press conference at BT’s headquarters in Belfast. “We should get there before anyone else.”
Few, if any parts of the UK, will have that much fibre in rural areas
The Northern Ireland Assembly secured £18 million of EU funding for its fibre rollout, £12 million of which was designated for improving the internet speeds in rural areas, some of which were still dawdling on dial-up connections.
“We focused on rural areas – the money was skewed heavily in that direction,” Foster claimed. “Few, if any parts of the UK, will have that much fibre in rural areas.”
Foster claimed the fibre network will help Northern Ireland attract new types of business, as well as provide much-needed connectivity for existing businesses.
“100% access to broadband is a very powerful selling point for us,” she said. “All sectors rely on connectivity.”
“It does free up people to live in rural areas,” she added. “They don’t have to go to London, they don’t have to go to New York.”
The public/private investment in Northern Ireland echoes a similar BT project in Cornwall, where £53.5 million of EU money will help deliver fibre to 90% of the county by 2014. BT is contributing £78.5 million to the Cornwall project, which is coming out of the £2.5 billion it has set aside for Britain’s fibre rollout.