O’Neill hails successful rural broadband project

Rural Development Minister Michelle O'Neill MLA, pictured with Clare and Gerard Morris, whose electrical business in Greencastle Co.Tyrone has been boosted by 'The Village Telecommunication Broadband Project', which aimed to deliver a wireless telecommunication solution for the community of Greencastle

Rural Development Minister Michelle O'Neill MLA, pictured with Clare and Gerard Morris, whose electrical business in Greencastle Co.Tyrone has been boosted by 'The Village Telecommunication Broadband Project', which aimed to deliver a wireless telecommunication solution for the community of Greencastle

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Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has welcomed the completion a successful broadband project in rural Greencastle, Co Tyrone.

The Village Telecommunication Broadband Project aimed to deliver a wireless telecommunication solution for the community of Greencastle. The project was supported with £31,640 capital investment from Assisting Rural Communities North West (ARC NW) under Axis 3 of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) and successfully delivered by Omagh District Council and Greencastle Community Association.

By the end of March, DARD will have invested a total of £7.5million in broadband projects and to date this has enabled some 17,000 rural dwellers, farms and businesses across the north to access broadband services.

Agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill

Speaking at the business premises of Gerard Morris Electrics, Glenhull, which is just one of the many companies to benefit from the wireless broadband solution, Minister O’Neill said: “I’ve heard from Gerard today how broadband has provided an improved quality of service for his customer base. I am delighted that around 170 businesses including farmers, community organisations and households are benefiting from the increased broadband provision in the Greencastle area.”

The minister added: “In an ever growing digital age, broadband provision is fast becoming a basic service and need for our rural communities. From children doing research for homework, to parents working or shopping online or interacting with Local and Central Government, and with businesses now more than ever trading online in a global market place, it is imperative that rural areas are not disadvantaged when it comes to broadband provision.”

The minister also took the opportunity to highlight DARD investment in broadband across rural areas in Northern Ireland.

She said: “My Department has been working closely with DETI around access to broadband and improved speeds. By the end of March, DARD will have invested a total of £7.5million in broadband projects and to date this has enabled some 17,000 rural dwellers, farms and businesses across the north to access broadband services. I am currently exploring options as to what my Department can do to encourage further uptake of broadband services in rural communities, especially farmers and businesses who avail of DARD services.”

In reference to the new Rural Development Programme for 2014-2020, Minister O’Neill encouraged all representatives of rural bodies and individuals interested in the development of their local community, to be aware of the broadband scheme under Priority 6 of the new RDP. The Minister noted: “The new Rural Development Programme is currently with the EU Commission for approval. Within Leader, to be delivered by Local Action Groups, we have allocated £2million to a Rural Broadband Scheme which will provide opportunities for innovative community-led wireless broadband solutions to enhance access to an improved broadband service in rural areas.”

The chairman of Omagh District Council, Councillor Sean Begley said: “After viewing the benefits of the this pilot Rural Telecommunication Project and the difference this project has made in Greencastle today, we can recognise the importance of broadband to our rural businesses, community organisations and families, particularly young people for their educational development. In a community that had little or no access to quality broadband, an innovative solution has been developed and delivered through an effective partnership between Greencastle Community Association, Omagh District Council and Bluebox through funding from the Rural Development Programme.”