NEWS that Mid Ulster is in the top four ‘Notspots’ for UK’s broadband has been slammed as disgraceful by Cookstown Council chairman Sean Clarke.
In research recently released, no fewer than 18 parliamentary constituencies have a majority of the population in low speed areas, including Mid Ulster with 56.4 per cent of the population in low speed areas and West Tyrone the second worst area with 58 per cent.
Councillor Clarke, who has been campaigning for better broadband speeds, said it was ridiculous that such a densely populated area had such poor speeds.
“We have a thriving business community and a very big sector of small businesses which are the cornerstone of our community. They need to rely on a fast reliable service,” he said.
The Sinn Fein councillor said money had been invested by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Industry in broadband infrastructure but the network is ‘unsatisfactory’.
Across the UK 11.1m people, 18.1% of the population, live in low-speed areas, in more than 5m homes. In contrast, in 17 constituencies, not a single home suffers slow broadband connections. Of those, 13 are in London, with one each in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Leicester.
In a Commons debate, culture minister Ed Vaizey admitted it would be “bad news” for most of the 17 areas that have bid to an £530m broadband investment fund. Only four or five are likely to go ahead.
Labour accused the government of tearing up its plans to introduce minimum broadband speeds in every part of the country by the end of next year. Ian Lucas, the party’s industry spokesman, said the Coalition had pushed that timetable back to 2015, which meant it would miss a European Union target to act by 2013.
“Universal broadband is not simply a useful tool for households, but is essential to the ability of the United Kingdom to stay competitive and achieve strong growth,” Lucas said. “Areas with universal broadband access are more likely to attract investment, due to the key infrastructure for competitiveness and growth being in place.”
James Holland, of gadget website Electric Pig, said: “It is incredibly important to have fast broadband, which really is the third utility now. It makes a real impact on choosing where you live, as people rely on the internet so much. People will research the speed they can get at an address before making any decisions.”
Vaizey said any local council with plans for broadband expansion could bid directly to the organisation Broadband Delivery UK. He told MPs: “Let me offer a crumb of comfort to those who may get bad news, because we will have to say no to a few.”