Broadband boost ‘worth up to £1.2 billion’

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DUP MPGregory Campbell has welcomed a new report that reveals money secured for broadband infrastructure could bring up to £1.2billion worth of benefit to Northern Ireland.

The East Londonderry MP said that it was “vital” that the investment is progressed “as quickly as possible”.

As part of the ‘Confidence and Supply’ Agreement between the DUP and Conservative Party, £150million was secured to bring ultra-fast broadband to rural areas.

The report by BT has calculated that for every £1 invested there could be an eightfold return by 2033 including new jobs and better productivity.

The telecoms giant commissioned research on the impact of planned improvements in rural coverage.

The report by consultants DotEcon said the £150m package has huge potential and the plan could help 140,000 households and businesses get ultrafast coverage.

The consultants used modelling from previous evaluations of broadband initiatives in other parts of the UK.

Mairead Meyer, BT’s managing director of Northern Ireland networks, said the investment “could open a wealth of opportunities” and would enable Northern Ireland “to compete alongside the best fibre networks in Europe”.

Mr Campbell, who attended the launch of the report, said: “This report reminds us that at the centre of the C&S Agreement were issues to benefit everyone in Northern Ireland regardless of their political allegiance.

“Fundamentally though there needs to be an Executive to move this particular issue forward.”

Mr Campbell said rural areas in particular across the East Londonderry area can benefit from this, including small businesses and those who are self employed.

“This report highlights the scale of the benefit this investment can bring. It is also very significant that these benefits will be spread right across every part of Northern Ireland and that key beneficiaries will be rural regions in the west of the Province,” Mr Campbell said.

He added: “It is vital that this investment is progressed as quickly as possible but there can be little doubt that this process would be aided by the presence of a functioning Executive.”

DUP colleague Gary Middleton MLA also welcomed the report’s findings and said “all parties should be working together to ensure the maximum potential benefit”.

Mr Middleton said: “There has been a lot of commentary about the Confidence and Supply agreement between the DUP and Conservative Party.

“However, this report should be a reminder that at the centre of that agreement were issues to benefit everyone in Northern Ireland regardless of their political allegiance.”