Investment in broadband 'worth £1.2bn to economy'
Investment of £150m in ultrafast fibre broadband in country areas of Northern Ireland could generate £1.2bn for the economy, it has been claimed.
A report commissioned by BT found that for every £1 invested in ultrafast fibre broadband, there could be a benefit of around £8 to the economy over the next 15 years.
The main areas to benefit would be in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid-Ulster District Council areas, which have been described as being the most disadvantaged when it comes to high-speed broadband.
The authors of the report said the investment in ultrafast broadband would help to realise several of the aims set out in the Department for the Economy's industrial strategy.
These aims include reducing economic inactivity, improving collaboration, increasing global competitiveness and supporting sectors of the economy that rely on digital connectivity.
The report was written by Dr Dan Maldoom, of economic consultancy DotEcon, who called for urgent action.
"Despite the challenges of broadband delivery in the more rural areas of Northern Ireland, high-speed fibre broadband is vital to economic, environmental and even social wellbeing," Dr Maldoom insisted. "This report highlights the potential economic return of the Government's £150m investment in more rural areas.
"(It also highlights) other key benefits to communities across Northern Ireland, such as a reduction in carbon emissions, enhanced digital inclusion and wider access to e-health."
The Government is due to announce plans for investment in the expansion of fibre broadband in Northern Ireland.
Last year, the Government announced funding of £75m per year over two years to provide ultrafast broadband - of speeds of more than 100Mbps - as part of its supply and confidence deal with the DUP.
In April, the Department for the Economy announced it would begin a consultation with political parties on how to use the £150m.