Concern over broadband in rural locations

Concern over broadband in rural locations

15 September 2021

A LOCAL politician has called for a major review of a scheme designed to extend next generation broadband provision to almost 80,000 homes and business across the province as one local family continues to miss out.

The so-called Project Stratum initiative aims to connect premises which are currently unable to access the internet.

However, Slieve Croob councillor, Alan Lewis, is concerned that despite significant investment in the project, some people still find themselves without a broadband connection.

He has called for a review of the project in his electoral area after being informed that homes in the Hillhead Road area of Dromara cannot log on, despite the presence of a new broadband cable close by.

Cllr Lewis said he has no doubt that Stormont’s Department for the Economy appreciates the impact of poor broadband on local communities, particularly in rural areas and recognises that the Covid-19 crisis has emphasised the challenges faced by those with poor coverage.

He continued: “Project Stratum was developed to improve connectivity for premises unable to access broadband services of 30Mbps or greater, primarily across rural areas. 

“I have been advised that an open market review and public consultation concluded that the Hillhead Road could already avail of a broadband service of at least 30Mbps, but I can confirm this isn’t the case.”

Cllr Lewis said one particular family who live at the Hillhead Road are “severely and adversely impacted” by poor and sometimes non-existent broadband.

“All providers have told them that their services aren’t available at this location which means they must run their agri-tech system off 4G technology. Essentially, the broadband speed and capabilities are far below the findings of the consultation which informed the delivery of project stratum.

“I have raised the issue with Fibrus and been advised that despite other premises a few yards away being connected, engineers do not have the network capacity to facilitate the Rodgers family.”

Cllr Lewis said he shares the frustration of those who feel they are being treated unfairly due to their geographical location.

He added: “It is factual that customers within urban areas experience a better quality of service than those living in rural parts of this district, particularly Slieve Croob and I will continue to lobby for the residents of Hillhead Road.

“Utility companies must do all they can to ensure secure and reliable broadband and the Department for the Economy has a responsibility to ensure that areas that are misrepresented in service delivery data are corrected as a matter of urgency so if future funding becomes available for additional roll out, these areas are included.”