Mid Ulster internet speeds lagging behind ex-Soviet bloc

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Mid Ulster’s rural residents get worse superfast broadband coverage than their counterparts in Slovenia, Lithuania and Cyprus, an official study has shown.

Just 55 percent of the district’s premises have access to broadband at 30 Mbps, a level that allows users to watch films online, compared to a Northern Ireland average of 77%.

It leaves Mid Ulster lagging behind Estonia (57 per cent); Slovenia (58 per cent) and Lithuania (59 per cent).

The figures, which show that the average Mid Ulster download speed is 21.5 Mps, were revealed last week through the Northern Ireland Assembly.

However many residents in areas such as Pomeroy, Carrickmore, Galbally, Killeeshil, Cappagh and Donaghmore have speeds of less than one Mpbs, leading to fears that local businesses and pupils will be disadvantaged.

Over ths summer, businesses and homes across the Mid Ulster District experienced major disruption and frustration due to a breakdown in their internet connections.

Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Gillespie, who has been inundated with complaints from local residents and businesses, has accused North West Electronics, the publicly funded provider of Bluebox Broadband, of callously ignoring the predicament of its customers.

“Households have been left with no internet connection at all and it’s an absolute disgrace given that the Assembly has pumped hundreds of thousands into this service”, he said.

“This was meant to be the solution to all the problems faced by people living in internet black-spots, and the current state of affairs is a scandal.”

Derry based North West Electronics, which operates as Bluebox Broadband, provides satellite broadband to a series of remote rural areas in district, including Pomeroy, Carrickmore, Galbally, Killeeshil, Cappagh and Donaghmore, where a fixed line connection isn’t an option.

The European Commission has rebuked the British government for doing too little to grant people living in the countryside access to high-speed networks.

Compared to Western Europe, the figure is even less flattering: Switzerland has 89 per cent coverage, Belgium 84 per cent, the Netherlands 97 per cent and Luxembourg 98 per cent. Malta tops the table with 100 per cent coverage.