Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA and First Minister Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin MLA Jemma Dolan have welcomed the news that 94 regions, 11 of which are in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, will be upgraded to full fibre broadband.

Mrs. Foster said: “The news from Openreach will be welcome in many homes. I know during Covid-19 with many people working from home, poor broadband has been exacerbated.”

Mrs. Foster highlighted that rural areas “can not be left behind” when it comes to improving infrastructure.

“It is of no surprise that speeds in Fermanagh South Tyrone are within the top ten worst regions of the UK. That is why the DUP secured £150million for improvement to broadband.

This announcement by Openreach means that towns in Fermanagh and South Tyrone are in line to receive speeds of up to 1Gbps over the next two years.

“It is a major investment for these areas and fantastic news for customers,” Mrs. Foster commented, adding that they will continue to push the case for other areas receiving poor broadband speeds.

“With ever increasing technological changes, it is vitally important access to broadband is made easier. Many frustrations have been aired in relation to slow speeds, but today is a step in the right direction and I congratulate Openreach on this major announcement,” Mrs. Foster concluded.

Miss Dolan commented: “The lack of rural broadband has never been as evident than during Covid-19. People from all walks of life and all career backgrounds who were trying to work from home were really struggling due to the lack of broadband coverage.”

She continued: “This was only adding to an already stressful and anxious time. Therefore, this announcement is long awaited and badly needed.”

“Giving homes and businesses access to broadband at speeds of up to 1 Gbps means that a file that would take seven minutes to download with superfast broadband, can download in 42 seconds,” Miss Dolan added.

Openreach, Northern Ireland’s largest digital infrastructure provider, announced last week that eight new rural towns and villages in Co. Fermanagh will obtain the new future-proof ‘Full Fibre’ broadband over the next two years.

The eight locations span the length and breadth of the county and include Ballinamallard, Irvinestown, Lisbellaw, Bellanaleck, Derrygonnelly, Lisnaskea, Maguiresbridge and Newtownbutler. Openreach will bring more reliable, faster and future-proof broadband to these areas by March 2022.

However Miss Dolan noted that although this is a wide geographical spread, “it does not go far enough”.

During my meeting with representatives of Openreach on July 28 I will be pushing for better coverage across the whole constituency.”

‘Full Fibre’ broadband gives homes and businesses access to broadband at speeds of up to one Gbps, meaning faster connections and a more reliable service. Overall, 124 locations across NI have now been included in Openreach’s build programme, with 94 new locations announced, and the company is building to 750 premises every day.

Openreach also recently announced that it is recruiting more than 100 apprentice engineers over the coming months to support the build programme as it rolls out across the region.