O’Neill secures broadband access for rural businesses

DARD Minister Michelle O'Neill
DARD Minister Michelle O'Neill
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Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has stepped in to help fund broadband services for rural businesses across Northern Ireland.

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 £0.5 million 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.”

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.”