Northern Ireland

Political parties to be consulted on NI broadband plan

£150m has been pledged for ultra-fast broadband in Northern Ireland. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption £150m has been pledged for ultra-fast broadband in Northern Ireland.

Political parties and others will "shortly" be consulted on how best to use £150m to improve broadband in Northern Ireland.

Despite being announced almost a year ago, it could be 2020 before the investment begins to deliver.

The money is part of the DUP's deal with the Conservative Party, but it has yet to be released because the project needs properly planned and procured.

The Department for the Economy (DfE) said "preparation work is under way."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Industry experts have said the broadband expansion has the potential to be transformative for Northern Ireland

This will involve "a programme of engagement with political and industry stakeholders to discuss the proposed way forward".

The department added "a procurement process will follow" - potentially later this year.

Recently, the UK minister for digital, Margot James, told BBC News NI she was concerned at the time it will take to deliver the project, the funding for which is to be spread over two years.

The package dwarfs other broadband spending in Northern Ireland over the past number of years.

Industry experts have said it has the potential to be transformative, improving things like rural coverage and boosting capacity in urban areas.

The department is working on a number of possible spending options based on differing priorities.

Procurement of a project of this scale is also said to take "a considerable" length of time.

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