After Assembly criticises Superfast Cymru project, government promises £80m to extend coverage – £37m is projected BT returns and £20m is targeted from EU
The government has pledged £80 million in new funding to further the rollout of superfast broadband in Wales by the end of 2020.
Welsh Minister for Science and Skills Julie James promised to ensure “every property” in the country would be able to access “fast reliable broadband” by the turn of the decade. Potential locations will be assessed next October and deployment will start in January 2018.
Superfast Cymru, the previous programme has come under criticism from the Welsh Assembly after the original completion date of June 2016 was missed, with members claiming this would accelerate the digital divide between urban and rural areas in the country.
So far, 614,000 of the targeted 655,000 homes and businesses have been connected but the Welsh government says 100,000 will be covered before the project is concluded next year. It claims to have invested £162 million in the rollout so far and will have spent another £62 million by the time it is completed.
Of that, BT has returned £12.9 million to the Welsh Government after adoption rates exceeded those stated in its original business case when it applied for the public funding. This money has been reinvested to connect more properties and the Welsh Government is including projected ‘clawback’ funds of £37 million in its £80 million figure.
The remainder includes £20 million in Welsh government funding over four years, £20 million in European Union (EU) contributions – even though the UK could exit the EU before the end of the decade – and £2 million in central government cash left over from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). Private sector funding, most likely from BT, will also be used.
“Superfast Cymru has been a great success, and the rollout is far from over with more premises being connected every day. It is a challenging and ambitious project, but is delivering,” said James, rejecting claims made by Assembly Members.
“Nearly 614,000 premises now have access to high speed broadband as result of the project. To be clear, those premises would have no access at all without our intervention.
“We know there is more to do. And our commitment in our Programme for Government, Taking Wales Forward, is to offer fast reliable broadband to every property in Wales.
“The funding package, once more, includes European funding. We are in the early stages of the application process, but remain confident that the funding will be available, subject to WEFO approval, as a result of the UK Treasury’s guarantee to honour EU bids approved prior to exit from the EU.”
So far, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) has connected more than 3.8 million homes and businesses across the UK to superfast broadband that would not otherwise be covered by commercial deployments.
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