MEA Council applies for £750,000 ultrafast broadband scheme

Mid Ulster needs better broadband

Mid Ulster needs better broadband

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Up to 250 businesses across MEA Borough could receive a total of £750,000 to access ultrafast broadband if a council application succeeds.

The Super Connected Cities Scheme, administered by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), would see each of the 250 businesses receive a £3,000 voucher which could be used to fund equipment and relevant infrastructure for ultrafast broadband.

The scheme is part of the £100m Super Connected Cities fund which the Chancellor of the Exchequer rolled out across the UK in 2012.

At that stage, Belfast and Londonderry participated in the scheme, receiving 800 vouchers worth around £2m to local businesses.

This month, Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Council Mrs Anne Donaghy applied for the local council to enter the scheme after a further £40 million was made available to extend it.

If successful, the bid would see the vouchers offered to local businesses, social enterprises and charitable organisations throughout Mid and East

Antrim.

The application was discussed at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim’s Economic Growth and Development Committee on April 20.

A council report on the issue stated: “The application process is highly competitive across the UK and there will be strong competition to secure our bid.

“This process is extremely fast and we believe that a decision will be made by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport by the end of April and if successful, an immediate marketing campaign would need to commence to raise awareness across the business community to stimulate uptake of the 250 vouchers by the end of March 2016.

The council committee voted to retrospectively approve the application submitted by the Chief Executive to DETI to participate in the Super Connected Cities for 250 vouchers at £3,000 each.

It also voted to approve the award of £8000 towards a Service Level Agreement with Belfast City Council and a further £3000 over 12 months towards resourcing a marketing campaign to promote the vouchers.

The latest scheme is the second initiative aimed at boosting broadband speeds in the local area.

Last month, Ledcom’s chief executive Ken Nelson said that Willowbank businesses had been left “frustrated” and “disadvantaged” after being overlooked in the Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project (NIBIP) superfast broadband rollout, despite being situated in the catchment area.

Economic Growth and Development Committee member Councillor Gordon Lyons commented: “We are delighted that our Chief executive Mrs Anne Donaghy has taken the initiative to apply for this scheme.

“This scheme isn’t just for urban areas, everyone in the community can apply for funding including rural businesses.

“It’s good news for businesses like LEDCOM who can apply to be part of it and it will bring jobs and help to develop the area.”