MLA Cathal Boylan has welcomed confirmation received from Economy Minister Diane Dodds that a tender for Project Stratum should be in place before September and that the British government has now reconfirmed its previous £150m financial commitment to the rural broadband project.

Project Stratum aims to improve broadband connectivity by extending Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband infrastructure to approximately 79,000 premises across Northern Ireland that cannot yet access NGA broadband services.

The Newry Armagh representative said, “At Ministerial question time this week, my colleague Catherine Kelly raised the vital need for her to prioritise the delivery of rural broadband.

 “This unprecedented public health emergency has exposed the glaring disadvantage being suffered by our rural communities not least the disadvantage of not being able to work and study from home due to lack of broadband coverage.

“I therefore welcome the Minister’s response confirming that two tenders have been received for Project Stratum with a tender expected to be made before September and further confirmation that the British government has now reconfirmed it’s previous £150m financial commitment to the Project.

“With a 6-9-month period is required for network design and delivery preparation anticipated, the deployment of infrastructure should commence in April 2021, with completion by 31st March 2024.

“While of no immediate assistance to the many currently struggling to work in study from home in our rural areas, Project Stratum offers light at the end of tunnel with almost 10,000 premises in this constituency alone with broadband access speeds of less 30 Mbps are eligible for inclusion in the £165m project.

Concluding: Mr Boylan said that he would continue to champion the rights of rural people in their quest for proper broadband provision.

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