Dorsey public meeting to examine access to broadband in rural areas

April 20, 2015

A public meeting on the availability of broadband service in rural areas of south Armagh is to be held in Dorsey this week.

Residents are invited to attend and give their views on broadband accessibility, particularly those living in ‘black spots’ who are unable to gain access to the service.

The event is being facilitated by Sinn Fein as part of its commitment to ensuring all rural parts of Newry and Armagh gain access to broadband.

At a recent meeting with senior BT officials, Mickey Brady MLA received a report on BT’s scheme to roll out its broadband service across the north and discussed its progress.

“[BT] were able to give us a street by street account of the rollout so far and time frames for when current broadband black spots can expect to be connected.

“However, rather than us pass the information on to people second hand, we asked them would they come to Dorsey, one of the areas with among the worst broadband service, and speak to the people directly.

“They have agreed to do so and senior BT official Frank McManus will be there to take people through the progress so far and take questions from the crowd,” Mr Brady said.

“As well as answering general questions about broadband in the area, he will be able to take individual queries about when specific streets, businesses and houses can expect to get connected so I would urge people to attend and bring their concerns directly to BT.

His party colleague, Megan Fearon, also attended the meeting and said it is important that people attend Wednesday’s event.

“Broadband is simply an essential part of modern day life.  So many day to day tasks are now done online that it is unacceptable that we still have people, and especially businesses, with no access to it,” she said.

“We discussed a number of issues with BT that they say are affecting the broadband rollout, such as planning permission issues, particularly in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  A protocol for this needs worked out and we will be pressing the Environment and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Ministers in Stormont on this issue.

“It’s important that people come out to this, not only to find our when they will be getting broadband, and what is holding it up, but also to make clear to BT the depth of feeling on this issue.”

Councillor Barra Ó Muirí said one of the main issues he raised with the BT officials was the lack of communication between BT and the local population.

“We have a situation in south Armagh where people on one side of the road can get broadband and people on the other side can’t,” he said.

“We also have people who have been connected but are unaware of it because there has been no communication from BT.  This is the perfect opportunity to bring all those issues and more direct to BT.  These are all issues that need to be addressed, especially given that BT has gotten generous funding from Sinn Fein DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill to bring broadband to rural areas.”

The public meeting will take place in Dorsey Community Centre this Wednesday, April 22 at 7pm.