Welsh Rural Broadband Access Scheme Expands


The Government has extended the Broadband Support Scheme to those with less than 2Mbps

The Welsh Government has today extended eligibility for its Broadband Support Scheme (BSS) to include those with access to speeds of up to 2Mbps.

Residents and businesses in Wales can apply for grants of up to £1,000 to invest in alternative technology for faster broadband in ‘slowspots’ or to bring connectivity to ‘notspots’, areas not covered by telecoms companies.

Wales’ Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science Minister Edwina Hart said that scheme was dedicated to ensuring broadband access for the people of Wales even in the most rural areas.

“It is vital that everyone across Wales has access to basic broadband,” she said.

“By extending the criteria for the BSS we can make sure that more people can access broadband and take advantage of the opportunities provided by digital technologies.”

Under the scheme communities can also apply to pool their grants together into a larger investment for more substantial connection projects.

Meeting expectations

The scheme was originally launched last year with a £2m pot of money to bring broadband to areas with download speeds of less than 512Kbps.

So far 800 applications worth £600,000 have been approved for businesses and households under the technology neutral scheme, which leaves applicants free to investigate the most appropriate solutions.

Hywel Williams, Chairman of Wales Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) said consumers  now “expect services that are far faster”. In the past, 0.5Mbpsmight have been adequate, but now customers expect around 2Mbps, he said.

“We welcome the announcement this morning by the Welsh Government regarding the increase in the threshold (to 2Mbps) where communities or individuals can qualify for this subsidy.

The BSS is a complementary scheme for the wider Regional Innovative Broadband Scheme, a joint initiative with BT that the Welsh government says has so far got 8,500 Welsh premises online since 2006.

Acces to broadband in rural areas has benn a challeneg for a number of years. Last year a woman from the rural Welsh village of Salem near Llandeilo was reportedly quoted £150,000 by BT for broadband installation.

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