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Last Updated: Monday, 29 March, 2004, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
NI set for 100% broadband
BT has been awarded the contract to deliver the services
BT has been awarded the contract to deliver the services
Full broadband access is expected to be available throughout Northern Ireland by the end of next year.

The region will be the first in Europe to have 100% broadband access.

Broadband is the system which allows "always on" access to the internet at much faster speeds than traditional dial-up connections.

The government is keen to promote its take-up, saying use of broadband could produce 4.7bn in productivity and cost savings for small and medium-sized businesses in the UK.

On Monday, Enterprise Minister Ian Pearson said all homes and businesses would have broadband access.

BT has been awarded the contract to deliver the services by the end of 2005.

Through broadband, a small engineering firm is competing on the world's stage in the aerospace and automotive industry
Ian Pearson
Enterprise minister

Mr Pearson said local businesses would have a level playing field to compete in a global economy.

"This vitally important contract will deliver the government's broadband vision of a fully connected Northern Ireland. In turn it will help make Northern Ireland more competitive," he said.

The minister said Datum Tool Design in Ballynahinch - where the announcement was made - was a classic example of just how beneficial to business broadband could be.

"Here we have a small engineering firm located in a small town in Northern Ireland," said Mr Pearson.

"Yet, through broadband, it is competing on the world's stage in the aerospace and automotive industry."

'Tremendous boost'

Bill Murphy, the chief executive of BT Northern Ireland, said there had been "a groundswell for broadband availability" which had exceeded any other region of the UK or Europe.

"It is a tremendous tribute to be a key part of this momentum to enable all businesses and households in Northern Ireland and bring the very real benefits of connectivity," he said.

"This will ensure that Northern Ireland is a seriously attractive area for existing company expansion and new inward investment."

John Gilliland, the president of the Ulster Farmers' Union, said broadband access would be a tremendous boost to all rural areas.

"Many rural communities have already been campaigning to bring broadband to their locality.

"This demonstrates the demand for the service and having it available to every household in Northern Ireland will ensure that a rural/urban divide does not open up. It's very good news for rural families and rural businesses."

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