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Project Stratum: Rural homes in east Antrim to benefit from funding boost

Rural properties across east Antrim are set to benefit thanks to the extension of Project Stratum, the broadband intervention scheme.

The expansion will result in an additional 8.5k premises being brought into scope of the project.

Project Stratum represents a £165 million broadband improvement project managed by the Department for the Economy (DfE), with public funding of £150 million originally allocated as a result of the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the DUP and the Conservative Government, and a £15 million contribution by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

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Commenting on the announcement, Minister for the Economy Gordon Lyons said: “This marks the culmination of an extensive process that confirms additional funding allocations for this transformational project by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, along with vital contributions from my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons is pictured with Michael Carson, homeowner from Islandmagee who will benefit from the extension and Conor Harrison from Fibrus Networks Ltd.

“Total additional public funding of £32 million will be utilised to extend gigabit capable broadband coverage to reach an additional 8,500 homes and businesses in predominantly rural areas of Northern Ireland. The additional premises include 2,500 harder-to-reach properties that were out of scope of the original contract, plus a further 6,000 premises.”

The £165 million contract for delivery of Project Stratum was awarded to Fibrus Networks Ltd in November 2020. By the end of 2021, Fibrus had delivered new infrastructure to more than 22,000 premises.

The Minister added: “Drawing on the same best practices acknowledged in the recent NIAO Report on Project Stratum procurement and contract management, the Department has recognised a need to bring into the scope of the contract the additional 8.5k eligible premises that are now set to benefit from this much-needed public intervention.

“Funded under the DUP/Conservative Confidence and Supply deal, Project Stratum represents the largest ever public investment in telecommunications infrastructure in Northern Ireland, and the project aims to close a broadband connectivity gap that exists here compared with other parts of the UK.

“This is despite many parts of Northern Ireland, mostly in and around our urban centres, having access to the highest levels of gigabit-capable broadband in the UK. But in rural areas it is a different story, where a third of premises cannot access superfast speeds of 30 Mbps or above, and so delivery of gigabit-capable broadband infrastructure to these premises will be revolutionary in terms of the new opportunities a truly connected Northern Ireland will bring to our citizens.”

The roll-out of the new full fibre network to reach all 85,000 premises, including the additional 8.5k premises being brought into scope, will continue across four extended quarters of network build, with Fibrus Networks expected to complete full deployment by March 2025.

Further information related to the timing of deployment across all build phases can be accessed via www.hyperfastni.com

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