As the Welsh Government prepares a successor scheme to provide high speed broadband across Wales, local politicians Adam Price AM and Jonathan Edwards MP are seeking specific commitments and conditions for upgrades to rural communities
The Welsh Government-backed Superfast Cymru scheme concluded on 31st December 2017. The scheme, BT claims, has made superfast broadband available to close to 700,000 properties.
Writing to the Welsh Government's Cabinet Secretary for Digital Infrastructure this week, the Plaid Cymru representatives say specific commitments are needed for rural communities in any future contract the Welsh Government awards.
The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr duo quote statistics from Ofcom's 'Connected Nations' report, published in December, which states almost 1 in 3 properties in their constituency do not have access to superfast, with almost half (48.2%) of all properties receiving a speed under 10Mbps.
Adam Price and Jonathan Edwards share with the Cabinet Secretary the experiences of their constituents who they say have been left "frustrated" and "disappointed" with upgrades not taking place when promised. They go on to ask the Cabinet Secretary why residents are left looking at superfast fibre cables which have been brought to a number of villages but are left coiled up next to the cabinet rather than being connected to properties.
Assembly Member Adam Price said:
"We now have a situation where swathes of Carmarthenshire were not captured in the Superfast Cymru scheme, the scheme has come to an end, and we suspect it could be 6 to 12 months before the Welsh Government is ready to roll out a successor project.
"While recognising the improvements which have been made, we need to see cast iron conditions placed in the next Welsh Government contract which both prioritises rural communities and prevents any company from breaking its promises to consumers. We cannot have a situation whereby residents are given dates for upgrades only to see those goal posts moved again and again.
"Representatives of BT and Openreach have kindly agreed to meet with myself and Jonathan, where I hope to understand from their perspective how the successor scheme can learn the lessons from the Superfast Cymru rollout.
"Broadband is the fourth utility. Rural communities must be prioritised to get out of the connectivity slow lane once and for all."
Jonathan Edwards MP added:
"I met with one constituent last week who has a brand new high speed fibre optic cable passing his house to provide broadband to his neighbours, but he has been told there is no capacity on the line to connect his property. For the life of me I cannot understand why such an inadequate line was installed if it did not cater for all properties in the small cluster of houses.
"To add insult to injury, many of Adam and my constituents now have fibre cabled rolled up outside the green cabinets in their village whilst they agonisingly try to understand why their properties could not have been connected before the end of the scheme.
"We need a range of commitments in the next broadband scheme that rural communities won't be let down. We'd even go as far as suggesting that the contract includes penalties for broken connection promises.
"Connecting Carmarthenshire is of vital importance to our economy and everyday lives. We want the Welsh Government to move as swiftly as possible to get the successor scheme underway."