Ultrafast full fibre rollout could attract over 30,000 more people to move to NI

The Director of Openreach in Northern Ireland, Mairead Meyer, has welcomed the findings of a report conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) which shows a comprehensive Full Fibre network could encourage 30,000 more people to move to here.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 8:44 am
Director of Openreach in Northern Ireland, Mairead Meyer

Previous Cebr research commissioned by Openreach also estimated a £1.3bn addition to GVA as a result of the rollout of Full Fibre broadband across Northern Ireland.

Mairead said: “This report illustrates just how much of a game-changer the roll out of Ultrafast Full Fibre broadband across Northern Ireland could be. Not only will it positively impact the lives of people and businesses currently here, but it will also boost the local economy, helping Northern Ireland build back better and stronger.

“The events of the past 12 months have only served to reinforce public recognition of the importance of high-quality broadband and it’s one of the reasons we are so committed to extending and improving the network here.

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“Prior to March 2020, a gradual move towards home-working was underway, supported by the resilience of Northern Ireland’s digital infrastructure and changing attitudes towards remote working. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for increasingly flexible working solutions, which could have significant ramifications for the economy and wider society. Better connectivity and ultrafast broadband are key to that flexibility.”

Cebr updated their research conclusions based on evidence around expected future levels of home working. The spatial model now reflects the cultural change brought about by COVID-19, together with the technological impact of nationwide Full Fibre rollout.

Being able to work from home could also mean major benefits for the local environment as well. The Cebr research suggests improved connectivity could cut commuter trips and reduce CO2 emissions.

Ms Meyer continued: “The last 12 months has highlighted to many people the benefits of living outside of urban locations. The CEBR model suggests regional rebalancing as people could be supported to move from urban to more rural areas helping stimulate regional and rural economic growth.

The report also suggested that a comprehensive Full Fibre network could also unlock job opportunities for people otherwise left behind – such as carers, older people and parents looking to return to work. More than 26,000 people in Northern Ireland could be brought back into the workforce through enhanced connectivity.

“Already Northern Ireland is the most digitally connected region in the UK with over 65% of properties, able to access ultra-reliable broadband at speeds of up to 1Gbps on Openreach’s network, that’s 15 times faster than the national average. But it’s findings like this that show why we’re determined to continue to push forward with our recent announcement of a further £100m investment to maintain our copper network and extend our Ultrafast Full Fibre roll out over next 12 months.”

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