Community Resilience

Fibre broadband rollout

Fibre broadband rollout could benefit NI rural economy by estimated £1.2 billion: DotEcon Report

The economic, social and environmental benefits of the proposed government £150m investment in ultrafast fibre broadband in rural areas of Northern Ireland has been estimated at £1.2bn – according to an independent report commissioned by BT and undertaken by the economic consultancy, DotEcon.

The report assesses the potential benefits that could result from an investment focused in rural areas and estimates that, for every £1 invested, there would be a benefit of around £8 to the local economy over 15 years. The key beneficiaries would be the Fermanagh and Omagh District and Mid-Ulster District Council areas, which are currently the most disadvantaged in terms of high-speed broadband availability in Northern Ireland.

The authors of this independent assessment suggest that the proposed investment in ultrafast broadband would help to realise several of the goals set out in the Department for the Economy’s Industrial Strategy, which include reducing economic inactivity, improving collaboration within Northern Ireland, increasing global competitiveness and supporting digital intensive sectors.

The report found that increased employment would be the largest source of benefit, amounting to £890 million by 2033, or about £6 for every £1 invested.

The expansion of ultrafast fibre broadband in rural areas could also lead to carbon abatement through home or teleworking, e-commerce and the use of Cloud computing, while fibre broadband would also facilitate digital inclusion, improving rural communities’ access to public services, such as online Universal Credit applications and e-health.

Dr Dan Maldoom, author of the DotEcon report, said: “Despite the challenges of broadband delivery in more rural areas of Northern Ireland, high speed fibre broadband is vital to the economic, environmental and even social wellbeing.

“This report highlights the potential economic return of the government’s £150m investment in rural areas, together with other key benefits to communities across Northern Ireland, such as a reduction in carbon emissions, enhanced digital inclusion and wider access to e-health.”

Mairead Meyer, Managing Director of Northern Ireland Networks at BT, said: “We welcome the proposed investment and expansion of fibre broadband across Northern Ireland.

“We await the publication of government plans for the proposed investment and acknowledge that, once they are announced, there will be a public and competitive procurement process. However, we wanted to investigate and share the economic impact such an investment would have, particularly within challenging, harder to reach rural areas across Northern Ireland.

“This report highlights the huge potential of an expansion of ultrafast fibre broadband in rural areas and how it could open a wealth of opportunities, futureproofing our infrastructure and enabling Northern Ireland to compete alongside the best fibre networks in Europe.”

For more information and to read the report in full, visit http://www.dotecon.com/publications/deployment-of-fttp-in-rural-northern-ireland/