Initial broadband phases complete
The first two phases of an Executive-backed project to improve broadband services in Northern Ireland have been completed.
More than 8,000 homes and businesses across the region have access to faster broadband speeds as a result of the work.
The Broadband Improvement Project has been undertaken by telecoms provider BT.
The rural village of Tamlaght O'Crilly in Co Antrim was the first community to benefit from the enhanced services, with residents who previously experienced very low broadband speeds now having access to a fibre-enabled cabinet that offers download speeds of up to 80 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20 Mbps.
In February the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment announced that £23.5 million would be invested, the majority by the Executive, to enable BT to deliver improved broadband services to more than 45,000 premises in some of Northern Ireland's most rural and remote locations by December 2015.
Enterprise minister Arlene Foster welcomed the completion of the first two phases.
"BT are to be congratulated for bringing this project to a point where consumers and businesses can avail of improved broadband services for the first time," she said.
"I look forward to seeing more homes and businesses connecting to these services in the near future through my department's Broadband Improvement Programme.
"Access to improved broadband speeds brings many benefits for users and I hope our local entrepreneurs and businesses can exploit this to the benefit of the local economy in Tamlaght O'Crilly and the surrounding areas."
Colm O'Neill, chief executive BT in Northern Ireland, said: "It is fantastic to see the progress our engineers are making with the Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project; particularly given the enormous challenge they have to re-engineer the existing copper network and transform it into a fibre-rich network.
"The importance of next-generation rural broadband in Northern Ireland's continued economic recovery cannot be overestimated. Great communications infrastructure is critical to economic sustainability and inward investment, but in order to drive growth, people need to adopt the technology that is available to them. So we actively encourage those who can now avail of these improved broadband services to get connected, be it in their business or at home, and see for themselves the transformational benefits the technology brings."