Broadband

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 3:00 pm, 24th January 2017

I thank the Member for his question. I know that it is an issue that exercises him and, indeed, his constituents. He has written to me and contacted me on several occasions about poor broadband speeds in part of his East Londonderry constituency.

As I have done many times in relation to different parts of Northern Ireland — I will do so later this evening — I accept that the speeds that some businesses and residential customers get are not acceptable. They are slower and are not as reliable as they ought to be. The Executive have put considerable investment into broadband speeds over the last number of years. Some £16 million has been put in, which has helped to unlock private sector investment from BT and others.

We have had success before in being the first region in Europe to have 100% broadband capability, and we need to get back to the days when we had a broadband infrastructure that was among the best in Europe. A commitment contained in the draft industrial strategy that has been published today is to get back to the days when Northern Ireland had an enviable broadband infrastructure.

My Department has also been working on a comprehensive and ambitious plan to look at rolling fibre out to premises across Northern Ireland, whether in urban settings or in rural areas. It was an ambitious plan that I had hoped to bring forward through the Budget process and get commitment for. Unfortunately, as we know, that has been hampered by the circumstances in which we find ourselves and that is not something that I believe we will be able to take forward in the next little while. It is an idea that is developing and growing in the Department. I hope that we will be able to take it forward on the other side of the election.