A move to addresss the lack of superfast broadband provision in an area adjacent to Carrick’s Middle Road has received a guarded welcome.
East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs recently contacted the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment on behalf of a number of constituents, including business people, who had raised the issue with him.
A petition indicating the need in the area was also passed to the department.
Mr Beggs said “I was shocked when I was advised that all the surrounding areas of cabinet 29 already have superfast broadband access, but that cabinet 29, which serves a number of houses in the Windslow, Berkley, Finchley, Heston, Hampton, Camden and Richmond areas, has not been upgraded.
“I am aware that a number of the local residents operate businesses from home and a number of other needs were outlined via the petition as to why the area needs the upgrade as soon as possible.
“There was a strong and unified voice that indicated that the local community want this upgrade to happen.”
Mr Beggs added: “I am aware that the department have just signed a new contract with BT to take forward phase 2 of their superfast rollout scheme, and that £17m has been allocated to the delivery of this project until its completion date of 2017.”
In her response, DETI Minister Arlene Foster highlighted that the telecommunications market is fully privatised and independently regulated with decisions on where to invest taken on a commercial basis. DETI, she continued, has only limited powers to intervene in relation to telecommunications infrastructure.
The department, she explained, has made signficant investment over the last number of years in initiatives aimed at increasing the reach and improving the quality of broadband services, particulary in rural areas.
She went on to point out that “a number of postcodes in Carrickfergus area, covered by cabinet 29 are included for consideration under this latest intervention”.
The minister also went on to say in her letter; “However until the detailed planning that precedes each phase of the project takes place, it will not be possible to say which specific premises will benefit from this latest upgrade.”
Mr Beggs’s party colleague and Knockagh Councillor Andrew Wilson added: “We need to continue to make the case for cabinet 29 to receive an upgrade as part of phase 2 of the rollout scheme. It is positive to note that cabinet 29 is under consideration at this stage for an upgrade. In my opinion, the area should have received a cabinet upgrade in phase one of the project.”