Hopes Raised For Rural Broadband

Hopes have been raised in rural areas of Tyrone suffering from inadequate broadband provision after the Department of Agriculture confirmed a £5 million investment.

The multi-million pound investment will target specifically target broadband for areas of deprivation in rural regions.

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Minister Michelle O’Neill originally revealed details of the planned investment in January, stating it would be rolled out through the Rural Development Programme over the next two years. This week the Minister said she said she hoped the £5 million will stimulate rural businesses and in the future and see many of the 37,000 rural premises that don’t have access to fix wire broadband getting connected.

Last December an Ofcom report named the Omagh district as the worst in the UK for basic broadband coverage.

Despite a £48 million Department of Enterprise programme to make super fast broadband available to 95 percent of premises in the North, one-in-four homes in the Omagh district (24.7 per-cent) either cannot or choose not to get above the very basic speed of 2Mbps.

The revelation emerged after a “universal service commitment” made by the coalition government that every household will have access to 2Mbps broadband by 2015.


Among the worst affected local areas are Greencastle and Broughderg, where businesses and residential properties have lagged behind in terms of Internet connectivity.

Mid Tyrone has suffered a double-whammy in recent months with the ongoing faults at their site in Mullaghcarn affecting Vodafone mobile phone customers. The major network provider has blamed power issues for the persistent signal blackouts for the area.

DARD’s announcement has now raised hopes that the tide has turned for the connectivity drought in those areas. The department said it will target areas that currently cannot connect to fixed wire broadband, and put in place the infrastructure required to allow third party companies to offer a broadband service to people in rural not spots.

“I am committing £5 million to the delivery of broadband that will be used exclusively to target rural areas of high deprivation across the north that currently have no fixed wire infrastructure to access broadband,” said Minister O’Neill.

“I hope that this funding will stimulate companies supplying broadband to get out into rural areas and use this infrastructure to provide access for rural dwellers and businesses to use broadband. I want this investment to stimulate rural businesses and give rural dwellers a wider access to services via broadband.”

The Sinn Féin Minister said the £5 million will bring DARD’s total investment in rural broadband to £7.5million.


Meanwhile Cookstown has become the first town in Tyrone to install a town-centre wide Wi-Fi service.

Cookstown District Council said the new service, available from a number of wireless access points located within its properties, will enable shoppers to keep connected, business meetings to be enhanced and visitors to access tourist information.

Wi-Fi can be accessed for free for a limited period of one hour, while access to the Internet from council facilities is free of charge for a limited period of 30 minutes.

Further access can be obtained with a daily fee of £2, weekly fee of £8 or a 30 day fee of £15.

Strabane last year trialled a Wi-Fi project from a small number of access points, but the venture failed to get off the ground. Dungannon is considering a similar move to Cookstown, however there are currently no plans for a similar service in Omagh.

Omagh District Council have maintained a policy of not installing Wi-Fi in its buildings.

Source: ulsterherald.com