New Voucher Scheme To Help Boost Broadband For Rural Businesses But Local Disadvantage Persists

0
54

O’Neill Secures Broadband Access For Rural Businesses

Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has stepped in to help fund broadband services for rural businesses across the North.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said the UK government is not doing enough to improve rural broadband, and DARD Minister MIchelle O'Neill secures an extension to the super broadband lines for businesses.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said the UK government is not doing enough to improve rural broadband, and DARD Minister MIchelle O’Neill secures an extension to the super broadband lines for businesses.

The Broadband voucher scheme is delivered through Belfast City Council on behalf of all council areas to assist with broadband installation costs. However, due to the limited funding available at the time a number of businesses where not able to avail of the scheme.

Minister O’Neill has stepped in and allocated almost £0.5million from her Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Programme (TRPSI), to contribute to the Scheme.

Announcing the funding Minister O’Neill said: “I met with rural business owners in Magherafelt and they impressed upon me how the lack of quality broadband was significantly affecting the growth of their businesses.

“I am therefore delighted to provide funding under my TRPSI Programme to help secure broadband services for those rural businesses that applied for but did not receive a voucher under the previous scheme. The scheme will continue to be delivered through Belfast City Council on behalf of all council areas across the north, with each business potentially receiving up to £3,000 towards installation costs of faster broadband.”

If a business is not registered for VAT, it may have to pay the £600 in VAT as an end user but the costs of broadband improvement are heavily subsidised in this voucher scheme.

The broadband voucher scheme ran out of money before Christmas and many of the last applicants to apply were unable to avail of the voucher to assist them with installing a good quality high- speed broadband service.

Minister O’Neill continued: “Once these businesses are connected to broadband they have the potential to show the world the high quality products and services they can supply and I am sure this will lead to the creation of more rural jobs within these businesses. Gone are the days when a business can operate without good broadband. This scheme will supplement the funding I have previously allocated to improve broadband services to all rural dwellers and business people across the north.”

The scheme will see up to 170 rural businesses benefit from a voucher which can contribute up to £3,000 towards the cost of installation of a broadband service. The Minister concluded: “I hope that as many of the approved businesses as possible that are offered a voucher will use it. This is a good example of councils, and in particular Belfast City Council, working with government departments to deliver a good result for our rural community”.

Ritchie Says Government Broadband Plan Not Good Enough

South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie has criticised the Government for their lack of support for rural broadband users. Speaking following representations to the Government and BT, Ms Ritchie said that the ‘Broadband Superfast Extension’ programme proposed by the Government is inadequate for residents in South Down.

She added: “The current programme put in place by the Government is neither effective nor rapid enough to significantly improve broadband speeds in South Down. Those living in rural areas will see this as another wishful promise by the British Government, which has sought to cover up their abandonment of those living in rural areas by making promises they cannot deliver.

“The Government must at least in the meantime commit to implement their ‘Broadband Superfast Extension’ programme sooner, as it is not acceptable that rural residents and businesses will have to wait years to access what is considered an extremely limited broadband connection in many other European countries.

“While rural Businesses in Britain are achieving speeds exceeding 30Mbps, many in my constituency of South Down cannot even achieve more than 2Mbps. These speeds make running a business or accessing basic internet services almost impossible.

“I have made representations to the Government urging that more is done to improve rural broadband in South Down and in the North of Ireland. Communities in rural areas need greater and faster accessibility to Broadband for business, education and social development purposes.”