SINN Féin MLA in Mid Ulster, Emma Sheerin, has spoken of her optimism regarding improvements to the local mobile network following a meeting with the Government Affairs manager from Vodafone last week.
Following the meeting with Vanessa Higham, organised by Sheerin's party colleague from West Tyrone, Declan McAleer, it appears that an upcoming project, called the Shared Rural Network, will address many of the 'not spots' that exist across the north, particularly in the west.
The South Derry representative said: "It's a sad and unfortunate reality that the more western counties have been historically neglected when it comes to development of infrastructure, something we in Sinn Féin are keen to see addressed.
"Road networks and services have traditionally been weaker West of the Bann, and therefore it follows that communications networks in these parts are not as strong either.
"I have experienced the frustration myself of going into an area where there is no signal of any kind, and whilst it could be portrayed as a superficial priority, we are now in an age where internet access and phone coverage is as necessary in any home as running water and electricity.
"Businesses and students rely on these services for work, and the implications for emergency situations when a simple phonecall cannot be made can be severe. We have identified two huge swathes where there are 'not spots' in the local area- on the Derry/Tyrone border at Sixtowns/Broughderg, and around the Loughshore in places at Newbridge/Ballymaguigan, again heading into Tyrone.
"Thankfully, following my meeting with the Government Affairs manager from Vodafone, where she outlined plans to improve network coverage to the point where 91% of the north's geography will have 'signal', I am feeling hopeful that these issues will not be in effect for much longer."
She added: "This will see significant investment from both the industry and the UK Government, and obviously the primary focus will be the UK, but of the £500 million the Government is committing, added to £530 being invested by the industry, there is a pledge to cover 91% of the north.
"I will be touching base with Vanessa again, and when the criteria for this project is finalised I will be making the case for the parts of our area that are currently without coverage."
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