Connecting the 30% of the EU's rural population that has no high speed internet access should be a priority for achieving 'broadband for all' by 2010, the European Commission has said.
Local MLA, Cathal Boylan, has welcomed the Commissions findings and agrees that good internet access can make farms and companies in rural areas, especially SME's, (Small to Medium Enterprises), less isolated and more competitive.
'Broadband access is becoming more and more essential for businesses, there are pockets of the North which are still finding it increasingly difficult to access a reliable service, among them parts of South Armagh and Tyrone. Even in the Armagh City and District area, Middletown, Carnagh and Derrynoose find internet access difficult.'
'I recently contacted DETI Minister Arlene Foster about the delivery of broadband in these local areas by BT, the Minister responded by saying that every household wishing to avail of a broadband service in the North can currently do so.'
'The problem is that in many cases where a fixed line connection is not possible, then a satellite service is offered, and the Minister has admitted that for many potential customers this is not an option or a choice they wish to partake of. There is a slight difference in a service being offered in a certain format and 'every household' being able to avail of it. Just because it is there, does not mean it is accessible for everyone.'
'The Minister also informed me that when the current contract expires in April 2009, BT have intimated they will no longer be offering the satellite service, so therefore more people will be unable to access broadband services.'
The Sinn Féin representative concluded;
'The European Parliament are currently discussing a proposal to make a further € 1 billion available through the European Economic Recovery Plan to spread high speed internet access more widely throughout European regions, I would hope the Minister will ensure that some of that funding if it becomes available will be used in hard to reach places in the North.'