Jonathan Edwards – one of the original group of MPs who supported greater separation between BT and broadband infrastructure provider Openreach – has welcomed today's ruling by regulator Ofcom that BT must legally separate from its Openreach division. Adam Price urges First Minister to explore a Welsh publicly-owned digital infrastructure company.
Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has himself submitted complaints to Ofcom, raising concerns that residents have an inconsistent service, that they are not being adequately informed about faults by their service provider and repairs to the phone network in rural areas were taking too long.
Following the 'BroadBad' report published in January which showed Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency ranked 649 out of 650 for broadband speed, Jonathan Edwards was one of a group of MPs to call for greater separation to end BT's monopoly on the broadband infrastructure.
Welcome today's decision from Ofcom, Jonathan Edwards MP said:
"Improving our digital and transport infrastructure can help rebalance power and wealth away from the south-east of England – and even the south-east of Wales - and see the nations and regions of the UK prosper whilst creating jobs and employment locally.
"Since being elected in 2010 I have met hundreds and hundreds of constituents who have had varying degrees of problems with their broadband infrastructure; from phone lines being cut off for weeks without repair to ageing lines incapable of providing the most basic of internet connection. I've been able to play a small part in getting their lines up and running again, but the underlying problem of poor infrastructure still remains.
"Rural Carmarthenshire has seen little to no improvement from the tens of millions of pounds invested on broadband, with many claiming BT's effective monopoly on the infrastructure is a disincentive for the company to invest in the network.
"As parts of Wales move ahead to ultrafast broadband speeds it is imperative that rural communities are not left behind. Today's announcement from Ofcom is in itself a recognition that the current system isn't working. This is to be welcomed as the campaign to properly connect Carmarthenshire continues."
Assembly Member Adam Price ceased on the decision by Ofcom by calling on the Welsh Government to consider the creation of a publicly-owned digital infrastructure company for Wales.
The idea was first promoted by Plaid Cymru in its manifesto for the 2016 National Assembly election. The party committed to exploring a “publicly or mutually owned broadband network, ISP and telecommunications company similar to Euskaltel part-owned by the Basque Government to address poor connectivity in parts of Wales.”
The manifesto author, Adam Price AM, suggested the creation of a ‘Welsh Openreach’ during First Minister’s Questions today, with Carwyn Jones stating the Welsh Government was open to the idea.
Mr Price said a joint venture with the private sector on the model adopted by the Basque Government and Euskaltel could ensure “no home or business in Wales is left behind in the roll out of superfast broadband” with the potential for everyone to have “ultrafast broadband within a decade.”
Assembly Member Adam Price said:
“Today’s announcement by Ofcom is a significant intervention and a clear signal that that the current system is not working.
“It’s time to speed up the glacial pace of superfast roll out and create a Welsh Openreach that is able to properly invest in our nation’s digital infrastructure.
“Opportunities for a 50/50 joint venture agreement with the private sector - whether a more independent Openreach or with other IT and telecoms companies like Google/Alphabet or Apple – along the lines of that already established by the Basque Government could ensure no home or business in Wales is left behind in the roll out of superfast broadband.
“Indeed, the creation of a Welsh publicly or mutually-owned broadband, ISP and telecommunications company has the potential for everyone to have ultrafast broadband within a decade.
“It’s encouraging that the First Minister is open to this idea. We now need ultrafast movement from the Welsh Government to make it happen.”
Listen to Jonathan Edwards discussing Ofcom's decision on BBC Radio Wales: