Potential rural wi-fi users urged to attend meeting

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A SCHEME that could take super-fast wireless broadband to hitherto inaccessible parts of Larne borough will be explained at a meeting in Carnalbanagh Primary School next month.

Ulster Unionists Roy Beggs Jnr, MLA, and Cllr Maureen Morrow have urged anyone who is interested in getting rural wifi to attend the information session.

Mr Beggs identified lack of broadband connectivity in rural districts as a major issue, adding that his party has been lobbying the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and has taken up the issue with North West Electronics (NWE), who have been awarded a Government contract to deliver an extension of rural broadband.

He added: “Arising from these discussions, there will be a public information meeting in Carnalbanagh on Wednesday, February 15 (7.30pm) to appraise members of the public of plans to roll out wireless broadband coverage.”

North West Electronics manager Scott McClelland will explain the system and how people can avail of the service. Officials from the Department of Agriculture will also be in attendance.

“I know from personal experience that the sporadic nature of fast, reliable broadband coverage has been a major source of frustration in rural areas,” said Mr Beggs.

“This, despite wildly optimistic claims from Government that there was 100 per cent broadband availability across Northern Ireland.

“Hopefully, this project could offer a solution to that problem. There has been lack of broadband coverage north of Larne town and we are also aware of some connection difficulties in the Ballyvallagh area above Gleno and in parts of Magheramorne.

“If interest is shown, it may be possible to arrange additional meetings. I would encourage people in rural parts of the borough who cannot get broadband to contact my office on 028 28273258 and we will pass their details on to the service provider.”

NWE’s 10Mb home/business wifi broadband system is accessed through a small box attached to premises, which allows wireless access from anywhere within the home.

NWE are currently looking to identify eight suitable locations to put up their network access points in the rural part of the Larne borough and aim to cover what have hitherto been blackspots located too far from telephone exchanges.

For the rural broadband service to be provided, normally at least 10 customers within a square kilometer need to be prepared to sign up for the service

Cllr Morrow said: “Lack of broadband availability in many parts of the countryside has been a major annoyance for some time and it was an issue frequently raised with me on the doorsteps at last year’s election. Coverage is patchy at best across Owencloughy, Feystown and Aughaboy.

“We encouraged NWE to include rural Larne in their application to the Department and now that they have been successful, we are pleased that Scott McClelland has agreed to come to Carnalbanagh to explain their system.

“For far too long farmers, school children/students, and people trying to run a business from home have been at a distinct disadvantage in many rural locations. We would encourage people to come along to the meeting, where management and engineers of NWE will be happy to advise and answer any queries people may have. DARD officals will also be there to explain the importance of getting online.”