Northern Ireland’s first enterprise zone, Atlantic Link Campus, has been launched near Ulster University’s Coleraine campus. The 16-hectare site has direct links to Project Kelvin, which offers a data transfer route between the UK and North America. The enterprise zone is designed for digital companies that want to launch, relocate and expand their businesses.
The initiative offers enhanced capital allowances, superfast broadband and simplified planning as it is already zoned for industrial/commercial activity. The campus is located in the so-called north coast Triangle comprising the three towns of Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart. The US tech firm 5Nines will be the anchor tenant for the enterprise zone.
Joan Baird, the mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, said: “We are proud to be the home of Northern Ireland’s first enterprise zone, and we look forward to promoting the potential of this project as a prime location for foreign direct investment.
“As a council, we are committed to improving local economic prosperity, and the Atlantic Link Campus will now be pivotal to this.”
Image credit | William Murphy
WHILE most households are blessed with the convenience of doing the weekly shop online, the same cannot be said for the Moore family. Gary, his wife Karen and two children, along with three other homes in a private drive, have been fighting for faster broadband for the last decade. The Moores, of Deben Road in Colchester, are with Sky but have been trying to change to Virgin Media.
But as they are on a private drive, Virgin refused to hook them up, saying it would be uneconomical for them to dig up the road and connect them. Frustratingly, there is a Virgin fibre-optic cable at the end of the private road, about 400 yards away. Mr Moore said: “They said they would need to dig up the private road and they did not want to pay the costs to do that, we offered to pay for the work but they still refuse to carry it out.
“Unless we pay out a lot of money for monthly 4G subscriptions there is nothing we can do. It would cost us about ?75 a month just for the internet.”
The couple have two children, Chloe, 14, and Daniel, 12, who go to school in Manningtree. IT consultant Gary occasionally works from home, which means he cannot use the internet at the same time as the children doing their homework because the connection is so slow. He said it takes about four seconds to load a basic web page, when the connection should ideally be instant so what should be considered leisure time is fast becoming a chore.
He added: “If you are doing Tesco online shopping it takes ages, for something you do for convenience it isn’t convenient at all.”
They found hope when Essex County Council1‘s Superfast Essex project advertised their street as being included. However it turns out this was not the case, as the county council has the house recorded as being serviced by Virgin Media, because of the fibre-optic cable at the end of the road. Mr Moore said: “With our children growing up and the internet becoming more and more important in our daily lives, we are left in frustration at the slowness of our connections while the rest of the street enjoy fast internet via Virgin Media.”
A spokesman from Essex County Council said the Moore family would be eligible for the scheme in the future following the misunderstanding. He said: “Superfast Essex helps people access superfast broadband in cases where no commercial solution is available.
Virgin Media previously informed Superfast Essex that a service was available in Deben Road.
“However after we learned of the problem Mr Moore faces we have been in touch with Virgin Media which has confirmed it cannot provide a service for him.
“This means Mr Moore’s property, and the three neighbouring properties, will now be eligible for investment in future Superfast Essex initiatives.”
RESIDENTS spoke of their fury after workmen destroyed roads and footpaths while installing new internet cables. Angry homeowners have accused Virgin Media engineers of dumping concrete on their driveways while installing broadband equipment in Labworth Road, Atherstone Road and Beach House Gardens, Canvey1. Some parked cars have even allegedly been left covered in dust and dirt.
Martin Richardson, 51, of Labworth Road, has called for repairs to carried out on damaged roads, grass verges and footpaths. He said: “These workmen are destroying the island. Some people even found lumps of concrete dumped on their driveways and concrete dust covering their cars.
“I spoke to one women who could not access her driveway because workers had blocked it off with barriers while they carried out works and had left the barriers across her driveway.”
The two-week project finished nearly a fortnight ago – but the mess remains. Brian Baldwin, 71, of Beach House Gardens, said: “I think that Virgin Media should have replaced the roads, footpaths and verges so that they were in the same condition as before.
“They have just chopped the roads about to allow them to put their internet cables and equipment in.”
A Virgin Media spokesman apologised for the disruption. He said: “Virgin Media is currently expanding its network in Canvey to bring ultrafast broadband speeds to more homes and businesses in the area.
As we do so, we endeavour to minimise disruption and are working with our contractors to ensure that work is carried out with professionalism and at the highest standard. We apologise to residents for any inconvenience we may have caused and are working to resolve their concerns.”
A spokesman for Essex Highways said the superfast broadband project is ongoing. He added: “Essex Highways inspectors monitor the work almost every day to ensure that Virgin complies with legal standards.
The roads and pavements must be left in a good state, and if our inspectors determine that there is further work needed to reach that standard, then that must be done and paid for by Virgin Media.”