Island broadband pilot scheme could boost signals for rural Wales

A pilot scheme in a remote community on the Isle of Lewis could signal the end of broadband misery for rural Wales.

That’s the hope of Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd, who has been a consistent campaigner for better broadband and phone connections across the region.

The village of North Tolsta in the Outer Hebrides has become one of the first places in the UK to test a new technology that increases the speed of fibre broadband over long phone lines. Openreach’s ‘Long Reach VDSL’ technology is undergoing a proof of concept test on the island as part of BT’s mission to find new and innovative solutions to improving rural connectivity.

The technology works by operating at higher power levels and is therefore able to make use of a wider range of frequencies to increase broadband speeds when transmitted over long copper lines to the premises. Initial results are encouraging, with most households seeing significant increases in their fibre broadband speeds.

Mr Gruffydd said: “Applied to rural areas across Wales, the technology has the potential to improve broadband speeds for thousands of homes and businesses – particularly those connected by long lines that are between 2.5km and 3.5km away from their nearest green cabinet.

“Improving broadband connectivity and speeds in rural communities is one of my top priorities and it’s encouraging to see this new development in technology being piloted in a rural community for the first time. I very much hope the results of this trial in one of the most remote areas of Scotland demonstrate that it can work and that, as a result, we can move forward with it here in Wales.

“I would also note that BT has succeeded in ensuring that 99% of households on the Isle of Wight have broadband fibre coverage due to a collaborative effort between BT, the Isle of Wight council and the Broadband Delivery UK. This has been done to more than 20,000 households in under three years and yet large parts of rural Wales seem to be living in the Dark Ages when it comes to modern technology. I do question whether we in Wales have the right political leadership to drive forward this important technology so that rural areas are not disadvantaged and lose out.

“Good broadband is increasingly essential for any small business to operate in rural areas. Farmers just this week have contacted my office to complain about how difficult it is to fill in online forms due to poor connectivity and schoolchildren wanting to do their homework also need access to reliable broadband.”

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