The Council is supporting the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in its efforts to roll out a Regional Gigabit Voucher Scheme across the Borough.
Local businesses and homes are set to benefit from faster internet connections, following the launch of the UK Government’s nationwide Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS).
The £67m investment is in addition to the £200m allocated to the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme and will provide future-proof full fibre connections for businesses and the residential communities around them. One gigabit is the same as 1,000 megabits – so it’s a big leap forward in connection speeds that could benefit residents and businesses in the future.
The Gigabit vouchers can be used by small and medium sized businesses and residents, to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit capable connection. Businesses can claim up to £3,000 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents can benefit from the scheme as part of a group project, and can claim for a voucher of up to the value of £500.
For full details about whether you are eligible for a voucher and to connect you to a full fibre broadband supplier visit here.
Stage Set For New Screen Media Innovation Lab
Ulster University’s plans for a new, world class Screen Media Innovation Lab (SMIL) were centre stage at today’s Belfast Region City Deal Council Panel meeting, hosted by Ards and North Down Borough Council.
SMIL is set to play a key role in the Belfast region’s economic recovery post-COVID, by building on the success of Northern Ireland’s creative industries which already contribute over £1billion GVA to the NI economy and employ around 26,000 people.
As one of the City Deal’s innovation projects, SMIL will provide a Centre of Excellence in Research and Development, and Innovation in Virtual Production, where academics, researchers and the creative sectors can collaborate using state of the art facilities, helping to both sustain and grow jobs in one of Northern Ireland’s most successful sectors.
The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings, who chaired today’s Belfast Region City Deal Council Panel meeting, said:
“The Belfast Region City Deal partners are focused on driving investment in our most resilient sectors, and in projects which will lead to sustained, long term regional growth and job creation.
“Demand for virtual content production is rapidly growing, but there’s currently a lack of capacity in this field. And because the Belfast region has already established strengths in film, broadcast, animation, games, and virtual, augmented and mixed reality – we’re perfectly positioned to establish this new Screen Media Innovation Lab and meet that demand.”
Facilitating Virtual Innovation
Professor Frank Lyons, Associate Dean of Research and Impact, Co-Director of The Creative Industries Institute and Ulster University’s Academic Lead on the SMIL project, said:
“As well as facilitating the levels of virtual innovation that will make us world leaders, SMIL will provide training and development opportunities to strengthen our talent pipeline, meeting the needs of the sector and boosting our productivity. In conjunction with the Belfast Harbour Film Studio complex, SMIL will drive collaboration in R&D on an unprecedented scale.
“SMIL has the potential to completely transform our creative industries, providing the platform for local companies to compete globally and establishing the Belfast region as a destination of choice for investment.”
Transformative Programme of Investment
Momentum continues to build for the Belfast Region City Deal, with the aim that a deal will be signed this summer to kick off this transformative programme of investment in innovation and digital, tourism and regeneration, infrastructure and employability and skills.
With the NI Executive’s commitment of £350m to match fund the investment of £350m from the UK Government, the overall investment package from both governments and BRCD partners currently stands at £850m for this ambitious 15-year programme. The government and partner investment will leverage critical private sector investment that will ensure delivery of a deal with a value well in excess of £1billion.
First Beneficiaries of Project Stratum Connected to Next Generation Access Broadband
Economy Minister Diane Dodds has welcomed the announcement Fibrus Networks has connected its first customers to Next Generation Access broadband under Project Stratum.
Just three months into the awarding of the Project Stratum contract, the first OLT (Optical Line Termination) in Coalisland, County Tyrone is now live with the first customers connected.
Once completed Project Stratum, the £165million broadband improvement scheme, will radically transform rural broadband connectivity by extending gigabit capable full fibre broadband infrastructure to approximately 76,000 homes and businesses across Northern Ireland.
Project Stratum is Life Changing
Commenting after speaking to Tara Hamill, one of the first beneficiaries of Project Stratum, the Minister said: “In today’s world we are especially reliant on our broadband services and good connectivity. More and more of our work and leisure time is spent online and if you don’t have access to good broadband this can be a real issue. Speaking to Tara Hamill has underscored the difference Project Stratum can make to peoples lives and how it is bringing tangible benefits to householders.
“I know there are many communities, especially in rural areas, which have been waiting a long time for improvements in their broadband speeds. These first connections demonstrate Fibrus Networks have the capability and capacity to deliver full fibre solutions, with speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, to many rural premises transforming the broadband connectivity landscape for individuals and businesses across Northern Ireland.”
“I want to congratulate Fibrus Networks on reaching the first significant milestone and I look forward to hearing about their continued deployment in bringing the benefits of Next Generation Access broadband to many more neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland.”
Commitment and Dedication
Chief Operating Officer for Fibrus Networks Ltd Conor Harrison added: “The logistical planning and immediate execution of this work is testament to the commitment and dedication of Fibrus, as well as the skill of our team who are equipped and ready to deliver full fibre broadband to the people of Northern Ireland.”
UK Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “Access to fast and reliable broadband is a central focus of our mission to build back better. The UK government has invested £150million in Project Stratum to roll out top-of-the-range speeds not just to towns and cities but to rural communities across Northern Ireland. It’s great news for thousands of people and I’m excited to see the first customers plugged in to these game-changing gigabit connections.”