Broadband

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

I thank the Member for her question. We do not have figures on a constituency basis but the north Down and Ards area includes most of the Member's and my constituency. On a global level, speeds in that area are not that bad. Some 98% of premises are able to get two megabits per second or more; 96% are able to get five megabits per second or more; 93% are able to get 10 megabits per second and 83% are able to get 30 megabits per second. That is one of the best in Northern Ireland. Clearly, there are still those who are getting intermittent or not strong speeds and speeds that are simply not acceptable.

There is a range of different alternatives. I have emphasised to the Member and the House before, that, whilst I accept that those are not good enough — that is why we have been developing the plan — there are alternative technologies in place that can present opportunities for those who just cannot get acceptable speeds. There is support from my Department to do that and I have said to Members before that they should contact the Department about that. Fibre is the gold standard, but it is not possible to get it in all locations. I think that sometimes people think that if they cannot get that they cannot get anything. That is not always the case. There are satellite and wireless technologies that can provide a decent speed. It is not necessarily the speed that people want, but it is at least a decent speed.

The Member asked about analysis. Some analysis has been done. I will write to her with precise numbers but I think that in the range of about 30,000 premises across Northern Ireland, the majority of which are in rural areas, cannot get speeds of two megabits per second or more. That is not acceptable. I want to bear down on that and see it improved and that is why we were developing the plan. As I said to Mr Robinson, I hope that, in spite of the current political difficulties, we will still be able to take that plan forward in the not too distant future.