Broadband exclusion ‘frustrating’ Ledcom

Ken Nelson. INLT 10-831-CON
Ken Nelson. INLT 10-831-CON

Ledcom’s chief executive says Willowbank businesses are “frustrated” and “disadvantaged” at being overlooked in the superfast broadband rollout.

Ken Nelson made the comments after it emerged the business park will not receive the broadband boost, despite being in the BT40 2 postcode area, which was included in the proposed intervention area for the NIBIP superfast broadband project.

Earlier this month, a letter from DETI Minister Arlene Foster to MEA council chief executive Anne Donaghy was included in the agenda of an MEA Council

The letter from Ms Foster states that her department cannot compel a provider to invest in infrastructure, technologies or to deploy services.

It adds that BT’s planning and design process excludes some parts of postcodes “as their inclusion may not represent value for money.”

However, Mr Nelson says that providing Willowbank with superfast broadband would benefit Larne. He told the Times: “If current and future tenant businesses in the Park can access superfast broadband they are much more likely to remain and expand in Larne. It will help attract inward investment to the area which will promote business growth, job creation and fuel demand for local housing and services. That is a long-term investment worth making and is value for money.”

The business leader said Larne businesses without superfast broadband are restricted in operations and growth. He explained: “Willowbank Business Park has a number of highly innovative and export-focussed companies who have been disadvantaged by not being connected under the NIBIP.”

The Ledcom boss described problems with download and upload speeds and video conferencing as “very limiting” for businesses in international markets.

“In today’s global economy, to compete effectively our client businesses need access to superfast broadband to win and retain business,” he said.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson commented: “£15 million of public money was given to BT to cover them in places where broadband was not commercially viable.”

When questioned by Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs in the Assembly, Ms Foster said she would “prioritise” business parks under the newly-extended SuperConnected Cities scheme. Businesses can apply for vouchers up to £3,000 to cover high-speed broadband installation, but Mrs Foster’s letter states “it will again not be possible to say which premises will benefit from the upgrades.”