£15m Boost for Fibre Broadband Infrastructure

13th May 2019

Local councils across Northern Ireland have welcomed the news that they are to receive £15m in funding to further boost fibre availability across Northern Ireland. The funding comes from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) through its Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN).

Since June 2018, Northern Ireland councils have come to together to form the Full Fibre Northern Ireland Consortium (FFNI). The Consortium, which is hosted by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, is comprised of the ten councils outside of Belfast. The Consortium will implement an exciting new collaborative programme to drive greater investment in fibre and digital infrastructure across the region.

Together the Consortium developed a Northern Ireland bid for £15m of LFFN funding from DCMS. This substantial funding award will be used to deliver full fibre to approximately 880 public sector sites, under the Public-Sector Anchor Tenancy model, by March 2021. The project will enable Councils to significantly develop their ability to deliver services and improve access for communities and residents. It is hoped that this will be the first of many such investments over the next few years.

Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Howard Thornton, said:

“The Council, through its Broadband Working Group, has continued to lobby key stakeholders for investment in fibre broadband so that our residents and businesses can enjoy all the benefits that reliable, good quality broadband can bring.

The Council was pleased to work in partnership with local councils, as part of the FFNI Consortium, to bid for additional funding from DCMS to support the enhancement of digital infrastructure in Fermanagh and Omagh and the rest of Northern Ireland.

I am delighted that this funding has been secured to invest in connectivity and to support economic growth and prosperity.

The Council looks forward to working with its partners on the delivery of the FFNI project and will continue to advocate for residents and businesses for further broadband investment in the district.”

Minister for Digital Margot James said:

“We’re building a Britain that’s fit for the future, and our plans for a national full fibre broadband network underpin our modern Industrial Strategy. This £15 million boost for gigabit speeds in Northern Ireland will benefit homes and businesses across the country and I congratulate the Full Fibre Northern Ireland Consortium in its successful bid.”

Currently only 12% of premises in Northern Ireland have access to full fibre connectivity and outside of the major conurbations the figure is much lower. With responsibility for promoting economic development, and local knowledge, the councils within the FFNI Consortium are well positioned to drive fibre infrastructure in areas where it is most needed.

Through the FFNI programme the Consortium will therefore help to expand the fibre footprint across the region to ensure Northern Ireland has available and affordable connectivity to support future growth and prosperity.

The Consortium’s phased delivery programme will manage LFFN investment and provide a vehicle to deliver further fibre initiatives over time. It will provide a vital local link for future DCMS digital programmes and will continue to work closely with the Department for the Economy and associated initiatives, such as Project Stratum and the Belfast Region City deal, to ensure a joined-up approach to digital investment across the region.