Plaid Cymru has today criticised investment by the UK Government in broadband infrastructure in Wales and launched a plan to eradicate broadband not-spots here by 2025.
Unveiling the initiative, Ceredigion MP, Ben Lake said that the current lack of connectivity is “restraining the rural economy in Wales, perhaps more than anything else”.
The 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.
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.
Lake, Plaid’s Westminster Digital spokesperson said: “Broadband, or rather the lack of it, is restraining the rural economy in Wales, perhaps more than anything else. My constituency of Ceredigion is among the 10 worst constituencies for broadband speeds.
“Wales has the perceived benefit of being able to receive investment from the Welsh Government and the UK Government, but so far both have failed to outline how broadband will be delivered to large parts of our country. 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 areas of Wales more practical places for businesses to locate 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.”