Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Faster broadband speed pledged for Northern Ireland


Thousands of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland are being promised better broadband speeds as the result of a multi-million pound investment.

£48m is being invested to improve broadband in both urban and rural areas over the next eighteen months.

Businesses in urban areas are being promised a minimum of 10 megabytes per second (Mbps) while rural businesses can expect up to 2Mbps as a minimum.

The project will be completed by May 2011.

BT, after winning a competitive tender, is investing more than half the money with the rest coming from various public funds, including some from the EU.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Arlene Foster said her department was helping to deliver a key commitment of the Executive's programme for government.

She said:"Broadband is an enabler - use of these new services will enable our businesses to increase their productivity, improving the competitiveness of the economy as a whole.

"At a time of economic slowdown, this multi-million pound injection in our infrastructure has the potential to indirectly create up to 1,000 additional jobs per annum."

"Social inclusion"

The improvement in broadband services will mainly come through the use of fibre optic cable which can transmit information more quickly than traditional fixed lines.

One hundred and sixty-six telephone exchanges will be upgraded while there will be 1,176 new broadband access points.

Many businesses and homeowners in rural areas complain that they either cannot get broadband or that the connection is poor compared to what they would get in towns and cities.

Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle Gildernew said she was glad much of the focus of the investment was on rural areas.

She added that broadband was "increasingly an important means of ensuring social inclusion".

Chief Executive of BT group, Ian Livingston, said the move represented a "bold and visionary step".

He added: "Fibre-based broadband will underpin future competitiveness and economic growth."

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