SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has met with Colin Lewis, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Department for the Economy to discuss the implementation of Project Stratum and improvements in accessibility to broadband provision in rural areas. The Mid Ulster MLA met with the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Department’s headquarters in Netherleigh, Belfast.
Mr McGlone said, “Following a meeting last month with Jonathan Rose, Director of Ofcom in Northern Ireland, I arranged this meeting with the Department for the Economy to discuss the problems of accessibility to broadband provision in rural areas.
“The current provision of superfast broadband here falls short of the UK Government target of 95% coverage, and the Department for the Economy has suggested that up to £200million of public funds will be needed to achieve that target through Project Stratum – the government broadband improvement scheme.
“At the meeting today, I sought further details from the Department of their proposals, in particular the timescales involved and the areas that will benefit from the scheme.
“I highlighted the problems many of our constituents have with the current poor broadband coverage in rural areas. I also raised concerns about the growing digital divide between urban and rural communities.
“Project Stratum has the potential to address many of these problems and, if implemented properly, can bring enormous benefits to all the people of Northern Ireland.
“As procurement has begun, next month there will hopefully be more information available as to what areas will be targeted for expenditure on the scheme. It is essential for our economy and domestic uses, particularly in our rural areas.
“The SDLP will continue to work to improve broadband accessibility across the North, and to ensure that rural communities are not left further behind as new technologies emerge.”