MLA Sammy Wilson has branded BT’s decision not to upgrade broadband for some Larne postcodes “cynical” and “immensely disappointing.”
The Northern Ireland Broadband Improvement Project (NIBIP) is a collaborative investment of £24.5m by DETI and DARD, under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport using BT to deliver a minimum 2Mb broadband coverage to homes and businesses.
The revelation that postcodes in the BT40 1 area would not receive superfast fibre broadband as part of the (NIBIP) came to light in a written response from DETI Minister Arlene Foster to Mr Wilson.
However, despite areas including the Port of Larne business park, Larne Harbour, Main Street and Curran Business Park not receiving the improved broadband service, the letter revealed that postcodes in the BT40 2 and BT40 3 will receive the service.
The letter states: “Focusing on the provision of basic services, the modelling optimises the best and maximum coverage while ensuring that funding is deployed as efficiently as possible. This will result in some structures and therefore postcodes or parts of postcodes falling either inside or outside of the project. Consequently improvements are planned within BT40 2 and BT40 3 whereas BT40 1 has not been included.”
Work in the BT402 and BT403 areas is due to be completed by September 30.
Mr Wilson told The Times: “There are business parks in East Antrim which don’t have access to fibre optic and there are no plans to bring it to this area. There are a high number of small businesses. We have continually been trying to get improved broadband but a person who worked in Africa told me they had a better connection there.
“I think this is a cynical approach by BT. I met with businesses at Larne Harbour who approached me about how broadband is effective for their level of business. They were told they could buy BT’s bespoke systems.
“It’s obviously in BT’s interest to sell it on that basis. East Antrim businesses are clearly at a disadvantage.”
BT stated: “For those individual properties that are not included in the rollout of NIBIP, the Executive has successfully been allocated additional funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (under the BDUK programme) and is currently working to identify both match funding as well as those that are currently not profiled to receive a solution under NIBIP.”