O’Neill to raise concerns over rural broadband roll-out
Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has written to the Department for the Economy expressing serious concerns with its proposed investment in rural broadband under Project Stratum.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“The provision of broadband in rural communities is fundamental to addressing regional imbalances and promoting equality with urban areas.
“Rural areas have been poorly served by the roll-out of broadband. This has had a damaging impact on businesses, on education, health and other key public services in rural communities.
“Accessibility to good broadband is key to attracting investment, jobs and services to rural areas.
“There is a need to provide a level playing field to people living and working in rural communities.
“It is absolutely essential that rural areas which have been left behind to date are prioritised in future public investment programmes.
“I have a number of concerns about the Department for the Economy’s latest plans to invest in broadband.
“Priority should be given to areas with weakest broadband, the plans should be fully rural proofed, the budget must be adequate, the investment should include social clauses, stakeholders must be properly consulted, and regional imbalances should be factored into the Department's assessment of value for money.
"I am not satisfied that the Department's plans meet these tests.
“I have therefore written to the Department for an urgent meeting where I will be raise these concerns.
“We need to ensure that this investment provides rural areas with the first-class broadband service they need and deserve.”