High-speed internet now available in most rural areas in Derry and Strabane

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High-speed internet is now available most rural areas in the Derry City and Strabane district, council members have heard.

At a Business and Culture Committee meeting on Tuesday, May 14, the Department for the Economy’s (DfE) Broadband Investment Project Director, Nigel Robins, updated members on Project Stratum, which “utilises all available funding to improve broadband access infrastructure in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Robins said the project was nearing its final deployment stage and has “almost got the job done” in rolling out Gigabit Broadband, which allows for speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second, in rural areas.

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“Project Stratum addresses homes and business which have been under-served through lack of investment,” Mr Robins added. “Northern Ireland is already the best-connected part of UK, but work is to be done in rural areas and 97% of the intervention area is rural.”

DUP Alderman Julie Middleton.DUP Alderman Julie Middleton.
DUP Alderman Julie Middleton.

The project received £199 million in public funding and is being carried out in partnership with Fibrus, who are currently “under budget and ahead of schedule”, meaning over 92 percent of Northern Ireland premises now have access to gigabit-capable broadband.

Recently received funding from DfE and Building Digital UK also means an additional 8,000 homes across the entire Northern Ireland can be served in the near future.

Fibrous Stakeholder and Engagement Manager, Julian Simpson, said the landscape in Northern Ireland had “drastically improved”, but the company needed to “make sure premises are served by these interventions and aren’t left behind.”

DUP Alderman Julie Middleton said her party “worked hard for the securing of funding for the rural broadband rollout”.

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UUP Alderman Derek Hussey.UUP Alderman Derek Hussey.
UUP Alderman Derek Hussey.

“This is a really positive step, particularly as a rural councillor,” she added. “And in many of those areas Fibrus is working wonderfully, has connected people, and has widened opportunities.”

UUP Alderman Derek Hussey said that “a hell of a lot of work” had been done, but he has come under pressure from his Derg constituents due to a lack of connectivity.

“I hear from people who say, ‘they’ve done the house across the road from me, but they never came to me’, and I’ve heard the same from the Sperrin area,” Alderman Hussey said.

“So what is the timescale to pick up those premises that have been bypassed and have they been identified as additional, eligible premises?”

A project spokesperson said Fibrus identified derelict or occupied homes in the area using a data set, which was assumed to be “an accurate reflection of the building environment” but had some anomalies.

He assured members that subsequent plans would be based on a more up-to-date set of data that more accurately identifies whether premises are derelict, temporality vacant, or occupied.

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter