Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: Areas of Northern Ireland with the worst broadband connectivity

By Michael Sheils McNamee

New data has shown Northern Ireland is the most badly-hit part of the UK when it comes to getting a decent broadband connection.

Figures released by telecommunications regulator Ofcom show 50,500 premises, around 7.5% of the total, are unable to access a decent broadband service in Northern Ireland - the highest percentage for any part of the UK.

Decent broadband speed across the UK is measured by the Government's Universal Service Obligation (USO), and is set at a download speed of at least 10Mbit/s and an upload speed of at least 1Mbit/s.

The worst affected council area of Northern Ireland was Fermanagh and Omagh, where 21% of households are still unable to access decent broadband, with 12% of households in Mid Ulster affected.

Households in Belfast saw the highest rates of access to decent broadband, with just 1.1% excluded from higher speeds.

Although placing at the bottom of the UK's regions, Northern Ireland is set for a £150m investment boost to its broadband network - money secured as part of the DUP's confidence-and-supply agreement with the Conservative Government.

Included in the agreement was also a commitment to improve Northern Ireland's broadband network.

The Department for the Economy has said "preparation work is under way" on rolling out broadband improvements, but it could be 2020 before improvements are seen locally.

Speaking in the Commons last week, DUP MP for East Belfast Gavin Robinson called on the Prime Minister to ensure upgrades to Northern Ireland's broadband network.

He noted that with the confidence-and-supply agreement Theresa May had "recognised the need to give Northern Ireland an economic boost", and pressed Prime Minister to ensure progress was made on the issue of ultrafast broadband and city deals in time for the autumn budget.

Figures from Ofcom show the situation in Northern Ireland is moving in the right direction.

The number of households without access to basic broadband fell by 5,100 between May of 2017 and January of 2018.

Across Northern Ireland around 100,000 properties are not able to access superfast broadband with download speeds of 30Mbit/s.

Across the UK, there has been a steady fall in recent years in the number of properties which cannot get a decent broadband speed.

In May 2016 the figure was at 1.6m (around 6% unable to get decent broadband), a number which had fallen to 1.1m a year later (around 4%) and down to 925,000 (3%) in January 2018.

In March of this year the USO minimum standards were adopted into UK law, and will come into effect in 2020.

These give households and businesses a legal right to improved broadband, and give them the power to request provisions costing as much as £3,400 be taken to provide them with decent broadband - although consumers should "consider other options" where cost goes beyond this.

Number of properties unable to get decent broadband by council district:

Antrim and Newtownabbey - 2,727 (4.5%)

Ards and North Down - 1,924 (2.7%)

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon - 4,855 (5.7%)

Belfast - 1,714 (1.1%)

Causeway Coast and Glens - 5,929 (9.2%)

Derry City and Strabane - 3,294 (5.5%)

Fermanagh and Omagh - 10,065 (21%)

Lisburn and Castlereagh - 2,149 (3.5%) 

Mid and East Antrim - 4,139 (6.9%)

Mid Ulster - 6,606 (12%)

Newry, Mourne and Down - 7,122 (10%)

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