A commitment to bring 100 per cent high-speed broadband coverage to Northern Ireland has so far been an “empty promise”, according to East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs Jr.
Speaking at a farmers’ meeting, the Ulster Unionist assemblyman said many residents and businesses in rural parts of the country are too far from their nearest exchange to receive ADSL broadband, let alone super-fast connectivity.
“Whilst improved broadband services have been promised by government, many people in this and similar rural and even semi-rural locations remain isolated,” he was quoted by the Larne Times as saying.
According to Mr Beggs, fixed-line broadband blackspots exist in several communities, including Ballynure, Carrickfergus and Gleno. Explaining the problem, the MLA said ADSL broadband is distance-dependent, meaning the signal is pushed down a copper line and will not provide fast and reliable connectivity if it has to travel too far.
As well as criticising the government for failing to deliver on its promises of universal super-fast broadband, Mr Beggs claimed internet service providers (ISPs) have also been guilty of poor performance.
“Speaking from personal experience, some of the customer service failures from broadband providers have been appalling,” he stated.
However, the Ulster Unionist went on to highlight alternatives to slow fixed broadband connectivity, including wireless and satellite services.
Satellite broadband provider Onwave has been awarded a contract to extend coverage to rural areas that cannot access fixed services, while wireless ISP Bluebox Broadband allows customers to receive a signal via an antenna attached to their property.
Despite Mr Beggs’ criticism, government figures show that super-fast broadband is available to 97 per cent of homes and businesses across Northern Ireland.
The UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced earlier this year that it has allocated £4.4 million of funding to help bring minimum speeds of 2Mbps to everyone in the country.
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