Constituency 3



Sammy Calls State of NI Broadband Coverage Disgraceful.

 
Sammy has described as disgraceful the state of broadband coverage in Northern Ireland especially in rural areas.
 
A recent report has shown that 63,000 homes in Northern Ireland cannot receive decent broadband coverage. In rural areas 25% of homes do not have access to broadband speeds that are required to meet a typical households digital needs. This means that over 59,000 homes in rural areas are without this essential function.
 
Many of those households will be farmers who now require broadband in order to fill in a plethora of forms from the Department of Agriculture and many of them will be small rural businesses who find that they simply cannot compete, or in some cases operate at all, because they do not have this basic service.
 
Every week I am contacted by frustrated constituents who are sick and tired of excuses being made by BT as to why they cannot be given a broadband service and who also resent the way in which BT uses its monopoly of the infrastructure to thwart new and innovative ways of providing broadband coverage in areas where BT are currently not giving the service.
 
In the Digital Economy Bill the Government does plan to introduce a universal broadband service and this is something which I and my colleagues have been supporting in the House of Commons. It would ensure every home and small business has the right to request a decent affordable broadband connection of 10 Mbit/s or above by the end of this current Parliament.
 
It is important that this Bill does get through Parliament and that the Government holds BT to the commitment to provide such a service.
 
Ironically whilst thousands of homes are without any broadband coverage at all, BT continues to invest in superfast broadband which is now available to 8 out of 10 homes in Northern Ireland. Whilst I understand the importance of these packages to households, nevertheless it is still my view that BT should be giving greater priority to provide a service where there is none at present. If we are to become the super-efficient and competitive economy which the Prime Minster wants us to be in preparation for leaving the EU and becoming a global economy then digital services are an important part of the infrastructure that must be developed.
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