Welsh Government must honour broadband promise

Welsh Conservatives today called on the Welsh Government to honour its promise to deliver universal broadband.

In 2011, the Welsh Labour Government’s programme for government included a pledge to roll out broadband to all residential premises and businesses by 2015, but Ministers later announced that plans to achieve this had been pushed back.

Currently Wales has the highest rate of non-internet usage in the UK and as many as half of properties in rural areas do not have access to superfast broadband.

In a debate held today in the National Assembly led by Russell George – a Welsh Conservative Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire – Members urged the Welsh Government to redress this and to do more to promote digital literacy, and set more ambitious targets for broadband expansion.

Members argued that the disparity that exists in the connectivity of Welsh communities is too great, posing a serious hindrance to economic development.

They pointed to examples where in some communities there is the paradox of having the infrastructure to support broadband access, but that take-up of the service is low, owing to the Welsh Government’s failure to incentivise users and promote digital literacy.

Thirty-eight per cent of Welsh adults have just one basic digital skill, while 14.3% of adults have never used the internet. Wales also the worst mobile phone coverage in the UK and figures at the bottom of UK nations in terms of 3G and 4G.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr George said:

“This is yet another example of the Welsh Government over-promising and under-delivering.

“Despite £425m having been spent on the Welsh Government’s broadband intervention project, many communities are either still waiting for access or have not been incentivised to use a service that’s now available to them.

“Good and reliable access to broadband and mobile coverage are no longer luxuries but an essential part of life, whether you are a small business owner or a parent helping your child with homework.

“The Welsh Government must follow the example of the Scottish and UK Governments who have led the way on extended mobile delivery with structured plans – hot air and empty promises just aren’t good enough.

“Going forward it is important that we get a timescale on any commitment so that politicians and members of the public can track the Welsh Government’s progress on delivering these vital services.”

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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