All rural broadband dwellers should have access to good broadband, the North’s Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.
The Minister announced that she is to invest £1m to help improve rural access to broadband in Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the announcement, Minister O’Neill said that since she took up the post of Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, she has prioritised providing the services which help tackle isolation in rural areas.
Right at the top of this list is the roll out of rural broadband across the North. By the end of March 2015, my Department had invested £7.5m in rural broadband.
“The initial part of this investment has already seen some 17,000 rural dwellers, farms and businesses getting access the internet, whilst the most recent phase of our funding will enable up a further 14,000 rural people to get connected if they wish,” she said.
The Minister also said that she is to invest a further £1m from the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) budget to facilitating access to broadband for more isolated areas in the North.
“I also want to encourage all representatives of rural bodies and individuals interested in the development of their local community, to be aware of the broadband scheme under Priority Six of the new Rural Development Programme.
“We have allocated £2m to a Rural Broadband Scheme which will provide opportunities for innovative community-led wireless broadband solutions to enhance access to an improved broadband service in rural areas,” she said.
She said her Department was looking to see how it can actively encourage more and better use of broadband so that rural businesses and farmers can benefit from the wide range of government services now available on line.
The Minister also said that broadband provision is about more than tackling isolation.
“It is fast becoming a basic service and need for our rural communities. It is imperative that rural areas are not disadvantaged when it comes to broadband provision,” the Minister said.