Residents ‘second-class citizens without access to internet’
Plaid Cymru has unveiled a three-point-plan to eradicate Wales of broadband not-spots by 2025. The party will do so by listening to industry concerns and getting to the root of the problems telecoms providers face when attempting to install full fibre broadband in hard-to-reach areas.
Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said that the current lack of connectivity across the region is “holding back the rural economy at a time when it needs all the support it can get”.
The UK Prime Minister’s broad brush plan to roll out full fibre broadband came under attack from telecoms companies when it was launched earlier in June for not providing any detail and for failing to address the hurdles to delivering full fibre broadband.
Mr Gruffydd said, “Not only has the UK Government failed, in practical terms, to outline how it will target hard-to-reach areas, it has also failed to outline where it would direct the money. In recent years, the UK Government has spent money to improve broadband infrastructure in three of the four UK nations, but not Wales. £150 million was handed to Northern Ireland to improve broadband connectivity as part of DUP-Conservative Government back-room deal. The UK Government found a further £10 million for full-fibre broadband in six trial areas across England and Scotland, but not rural Wales.
Plaid Cymru’s three-point-plan contains the following measures:
- Cut the fibre tax – Fibre infrastructure currently has business rates applied to it, just like other commercial property. Plaid Cymru believes this discourages investment and should be rethought.
- New builds fit-for-purpose – Too many new homes are still being developed without provision for fibre broadband. Plaid Cymru wants all new build homes to incorporate gigabit-capable internet connections.
- Skills – A large number of engineers will be required to carry out all the work involved. Plaid Cymru would invest in training and skills for the industry to be able to meet the demand.
Mr Gruffydd added, “Broadband, or rather the lack of it, is holding back the rural economy in Wales, perhaps more than anything else. Problems with broadband account for a significant amount of the casework my office deals with and frustrated residents rightly feel they are becoming second-class citizens without access to the internet.
“Both the Labour Welsh Government and the Tory UK Government have failed to outline how broadband will be delivered to large parts of rural Wales. In fact, Wales has lost out on crucial investment time after time.
“Why should essential utilities, such as adequate broadband, be dismissed as luxuries for those who live in the countryside? If we are to make rural Wales a better place for business to develop and expand, and if we are to ensure that communities can fully benefit from the opportunities afforded by better digital connectivity, investing in broadband is crucial.
“If we are serious about improving connectivity as a key to supporting and sustaining those entrepreneurial, innovative and hugely important businesses then it is no use making broad brush, sweeping pledges. Ambitious targets must be backed up by parity of funding and practical solutions. That is why Plaid Cymru’s three-point-plan is essential to eradicate Wales of broadband not-spots by 2025.”