Wilson slams East Antrim broadband provision

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has told Parliament that the local area has some of the worst broadband provision in Northern Ireland.

Speaking during a Westminster debate on broadband coverage across the UK, Mr Wilson stated: “Although East Antrim performs well in terms of the UK as a whole when it comes to superfast broadband availability and speed, it is one of the worst areas in Northern Ireland.

“This has an impact on rural businesses, farmers and families who require internet connection for schoolwork and recreation.”

Mr Wilson criticised BT’s coverage of the East Antrim area, claiming that they do not install superfast broadband services in areas which are not commercially viable, despite receiving a government subsidy to do so.

“Despite the fact that BT is subsidised by DETI to provide internet coverage in areas where it is not commercially viable to do so, it seems that BT provide cover in those areas which are commercially viable instead of the areas where there is market failure and require a subsidised service,” he stated.

“I have also had complaints from people who wish to provide new technology solutions to improving the coverage in remote areas where there is no fast speed fibre connection but have met resistance from BT.

“Their monopoly needs to be broken so that competition can be introduced to allow new technologies to be developed and tried.

“If we are to rely on the roll out of fibre optic cables there are some areas of East Antrim which will never get broadband coverage.”

Mr Wilson highlighted the plight of Ledcom’s Willowbank Business Park and a business park at Larne harbour, which he said had no superfast broadband coverage.

“Amazingly even some urban parts of the constituency have poor coverage,” he continued.

“Across Northern Ireland there are eight industrial parks with no coverage, two of them are in Larne and this has massive implications for the businesses located at Willowbank and Larne harbour.”

Mr Wilson called on Ofcom to “break” what he described as “BT’s monopoly” and to open up the broadband market.

“Investment in the internet is as important to the economy as high speed railways, additional runways at Heathrow or investment in our road network.

“It should be given the same priority as these in the government’s capital spending plans,” he concluded.