Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has said the recent OFCOM report on broadband speeds does not fully reflect the services available in Northern Ireland, which currently has the best superfast provision in the UK.
The Minister said: "Almost £50 million has been invested in the telecommunications infrastructure as part of the Next Generation Broadband Project, which involved the introduction of new technology to increase broadband speeds, primarily for businesses users, across all of Northern Ireland - including Fermanagh.
"The OFCOM report notes that Northern Ireland has the best superfast broadband services in the UK but omits this from the broadband speeds in the report. I will be writing to OFCOM to express my disappointment that the Report makes this important omission.
"Over the past 18 months, the Next Generation Broadband Project has seen BT invest nearly £29.8million in Northern Ireland's telecommunications infrastructure, with a further £16.5million coming from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), and the EU under the ERDF Competitiveness Programme of £10.5million was invested in rural areas and £6million in urban areas. Also £1.5million has been invested from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) under the EU ERADF Rural Development Programme. This has attracted a further investment from DARD and DETI totalling some £2million.
"OFCOM notes that the report does not include superfast broadband users in their data on speeds nor does it include radio, mobile or satellite broadband services all of which my department has made investments in to ensure everyone can get a basic broadband service across Northern Ireland. OFCOM advise that consumers should check with their Internet Service Provider to see if their speeds can be improved.
Arlene Foster added: "Our telecoms infrastructure is a tremendous asset for Northern Ireland which, can increase productivity and improve the competitiveness of the economy as a whole. Superfast services are highly available and I would certainly encourage consumers to switch.
"More can always be done and earlier this week I announced a further £500,000 of funding to support broadband technology trials and provision of access to high speed commercial services in rural areas.
"While the average speed of 4.3 Mbps for Fermanagh quoted in the report exceeds the minimum speeds being sought by the UK government under the Broadband UK project, we are working with them to ensure higher broadband services are delivered as widely as possible. In fact, the average speeds quoted for all of Northern Ireland exceed the 2Mbps target. I have consistently lobbied the Department for Culture, Media and Sports and BDUK to ensure that Northern Ireland gets its fair share of funding under this initiative to ensure higher speed broadband services are services are delivered as widely as possible.
Arlene Foster went on to say she had lobbied OFCOM on a number of occasions about the quality and coverage of mobile services in County Fermanagh and other rural areas of Northern Ireland.
The Minister added: "My Department has recently responded to an OFCOM consultation on proposals for auction in 2012 of spectrum considered critical to the efficient delivery of mobile services. My stance on this is clear - OFCOM must address regional disparity in access to 3G services by setting coverage requirements which are specific to Northern Ireland."