Chief executive of Virgin Media, Tony Hanway, has said the rollout of super-fast broadband to rural areas in Northern Ireland cannot be done without the support of its government.
Hanway noted that despite the company’s efforts of investing £65 million into Northern Ireland’s broadband infrastructure, little can be done to establish the same connectivity in rural parts “without significant government support”.
He said: “In a nutshell, our investment has brought decent, proper broadband to a lot more homes and businesses.
“We have gone to traditionally dense areas and not a huge amount in between but now we are going out into other towns, but we need a significant amount of density to get a payback and we ask: ‘how do you connect rural locations and make that profitable for the band supplier?’ It can’t be done without government support.”
Following the 2017 coalition between the Conservatives and the DUP, and the £1 billion deal forged through the Confidence and Supply Agreement, £150 million was designated to boost ultra-fast broadband in Northern Ireland – especially in countryside areas with slow speeds.
However, no plans have yet been made regarding the deployment of superfast broadband in rural regions.
Hanway commented: “The challenge now is, does the government improve the way we stay in touch with those in rural areas? There hasn’t been a huge amount of answers. We still need to see adequate proposals.”
Despite these comments, a spokesperson from the Department for the Economy stated that contracts to begin work on rural broadband rollouts will be assigned later this year.
He said: “All of the £150m funding for broadband improvement through the Confidence and Supply Agreement is aimed at improving internet connectivity for the 11 per cent of Northern Ireland premises currently unable to access speeds of 30Mbps or greater.
“The intervention area consists of just under 100,000 premises, primarily in rural areas.
“The department will be seeking to procure solutions that provide at least 30Mbps to as many premises as possible in the intervention area. Following the planned launch of the tender process in the spring, the department aims to awards contract(s) later in the calendar year, subject to all necessary approvals.”