Northern Ireland is on track to be near fully gigabit capable as the Department for the Economy (DfE) launches a Public Review aimed at further improving broadband infrastructure in predominantly rural areas.
All interested stakeholders, including members of the public, businesses, groups and organisations, and telecoms infrastructure providers, are being asked to review if the information held on gigabit coverage at addresses across Northern Ireland is correct via an online address checker on nidirect at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/broadband-connectivity by 6 July 2023. Gigabit capable broadband requires infrastructure and technology solutions capable of delivering one gigabit, which is equivalent to 1,000 Mbps.
The Public Review is part of the planned implementation of Project Gigabit in Northern Ireland. Project Gigabit is the UK Government’s flagship £5billion programme to enable hard-to-reach communities to access lightning-fast gigabit-capable broadband.
The Department for the Economy is leading on the delivery of Project Gigabit in Northern Ireland, subject to final approvals in advance of a tender process. Following the Public Review, DfE will confirm the premises which are potentially eligible for intervention.
Nigel Robbins, Broadband Project Director at the Department for the Economy said: “High quality internet access is vital as we grow the economy. It supports daily activities from how we shop, study and work, to how we access public services. Businesses also need to know they have the best available broadband infrastructure as they trade locally or internationally. Fast and reliable broadband, in every part of Northern Ireland, is essential now and in the future.
“The Department’s goal is to ensure that the parts of Northern Ireland that need public intervention are targeted. The spread of identified premises for Project Gigabit are broad and mainly in rural areas. We are asking members of the public for their help in ensuring that the information the Department holds is as accurate as possible, which can be done by using our address checker and letting us know if they believe the information stated is incorrect.”
Project Gigabit will, like DfE’s broadband intervention scheme, Project Stratum, seek to ensure that homes and businesses not included in broadband suppliers’ plans have access to the digital connectivity they need.
Nigel Robbins continued: “Both Project Gigabit and the Department’s Project Stratum will seek to ensure that premises across Northern Ireland, particularly those in rural areas, have access to the best available broadband services, future-proofing connectivity needs for generations to come.”
Project Gigabit’s capital requirements in Northern Ireland will be funded by the UK Government’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.
UK Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, said: “Getting a better understanding of the extent and strength of existing coverage is an essential next step towards ensuring all of Northern Ireland has lightning-fast broadband through the UK Government’s £5billion Project Gigabit programme, particularly in more remote and rural areas.
“Public participation in this process will help each and every community to access the support they need to transform their digital infrastructure and unlock new opportunities.”
DfE is working in partnership with Building Digital UK (BDUK), an Executive Agency of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, to develop a procurement approach that will incentivise the market to invest and deliver gigabit capable wholesale infrastructure in areas not considered to be commercially viable for new infrastructure. The Public Review seeks to ensure that the intervention area is as accurate as possible, based on all information obtained.
More information on the Public Review is available at: www.economy-ni.gov.uk/articles/project-gigabit
Nigel Robbins concluded: “As a result of ongoing commercial investment in broadband infrastructure, along with much-need public intervention, particularly in rural areas, Northern Ireland is likely to become the first part of the UK with near ubiquitous access to gigabit-capable broadband within the next three to four years, and will be in a position to capitalise on the long-term social and economic benefits that access to improved broadband can deliver to homes and businesses alike.”