Slow Wales Broadband Harms Economy – Committee

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
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Commons Welsh Affair Committee calls on UK and Welsh governments to address broadband gap

A new report has warned that the UK and Welsh governments must do more to address the widening broadband gap between Wales and the rest of the country as “a matter of urgency.”

The Commons Welsh Affairs Committee has said that although Wales has historically lagged behind the rest of the UK in broadband provision, the gap has been closing in recent years, only for that trend to be reversed.

The Committee said that broadband “slowspots” and “notspots” were hindering the operations of existing businesses and discouraging new businesses from moving to the country, harming the local economy. It added that a good broadband connection was essential for businesses, the economy and addressing social exclusion.

Wales broadband

suffolk rural country sheep farm © dibrova ShutterstockWithout action, the UK government risks missing its target of having the “best broadband in Europe” by providing superfast broadband to the UK by 2015, the committee said. Also the Welsh government would fail with its more ambitious target of providing all Welsh businesses with access to next generation broadband by the “middle of 2016.”

“Access to fast internet connection is essential to businesses and the economy in Wales. Broadband will become an increasingly important generator of economic success and a means of addressing social exclusion,” said David Davies MP, chair of the committee. “Both Governments have extremely ambitious targets for broadband provision and there is little time left to meet them. Wales must continue to receive the funding and political leadership to ensure that broadband provision is at the very least in line with the rest of the UK, and that the remaining “slowspots” and “notspots” in Wales are eradicated as a matter of urgency.”

“Both Governments must consider all possible ways of achieving this quickly,” he added. “The roll-out of higher profile ‘superfast’ broadband must not detract from the highest priority, namely that everyone has a good, useable connection.”

It called on Ofcom to undertake a study to evaluate whether satellite broadband should be supported more vigorously in Wales and said that the perpetually-delayed auction of 4G spectrum should ensure that services are available to at least 98 percent of the Welsh population.

It also said that Ofcom should ensure that BT’s market power is regulated effectively. BT won the BDUK funding available for Wales in July, but the Welsh government has had to delay laying down fibre to see if BT receives approval from the European Commission. BT has won all of the BDUK contracts so far, raising questions about competition.

Last year, Wales was allocated £56.9 million by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

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