£15m Boost For Fibre Broadband Infrastructure

Local councils across Northern Ireland have welcomed the news that they are to receive £15 million in funding to boost fibre availability across Northern Ireland.

The money has been granted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) through the Local Full Fibre Network Programme (LFFN).

It comes after a bid by the Full Fibre Northern Ireland Consortium (FFNI), which is comprised of ten councils outside of Belfast, to drive greater investment in fibre and digital infrastructure across the region.

Together the Consortium developed a bid for £15m of funding from the DCMS. This will be used to deliver full fibre to approximately 880 public sector sites, under the Public-Sector Anchor Tenancy model, by March 2021. The project will enable Councils to significantly develop their ability to deliver services and improve access for communities and residents. It is hoped that this will be the first of many such investments over the next few years.

Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Cheryl Johnston, said: "I am delighted that the FFNI Consortium has secured additional funding from DCMS to support the enhancement of digital infrastructure across Northern Ireland.

"Investing in connectivity is essential for economic growth and prosperity and will help to further establish Mid and East Antrim and all of Northern Ireland as a digital destination for investment, jobs and business infrastructure. This is an excellent example of local councils working together for the benefit of the whole region."

Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Anne Donaghy, added: "Strong connectivity is vital to economic growth and is at the heart of our plans to grow our economy in Mid and East Antrim.

"As our City Deal plans demonstrate, digital innovation is key to our blueprint to boost our economy, increase jobs and secure investment in Mid and East Antrim.
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"For example, the former St Patrick's barracks site, situated in Ballymena, has been earmarked as the location for a multimillion pound next-generation science park, designed to arm local people with the skills to compete on a global stage as digital innovators and entrepreneurs and will be created through £26m set aside for the project through Belfast Region City Deal.

"The LFFN will greatly enhance our economic ecosystem in Mid and East Antrim and further strengthen our commitment to growing our economy."

Minister for Digital Margot James said: "We're building a Britain that's fit for the future, and our plans for a national full fibre broadband network underpin our modern Industrial Strategy. This £15 million boost for gigabit speeds in Northern Ireland will benefit homes and businesses across the country and I congratulate the Full Fibre Northern Ireland Consortium in its successful bid."

Currently only 12% of premises in Northern Ireland have access to full fibre connectivity and outside of the major conurbations the figure is much lower. With responsibility for promoting economic development, and local knowledge, the councils within the FFNI Consortium are well positioned to drive fibre infrastructure in areas where it is most needed.

Through the FFNI programme the Consortium will help to expand the fibre footprint across the region to ensure Northern Ireland has available and affordable connectivity to support future growth and prosperity.

The Consortium's phased delivery programme will manage LFFN investment and provide a vehicle to deliver further fibre initiatives over time. It will provide a vital local link for future DCMS digital programmes and will continue to work closely with the Department for the Economy and associated initiatives, such as Project Stratum and the Belfast Region City deal, to ensure a joined-up approach to digital investment across the region.

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