The project to improve broadband speeds across Wales is progressing with the announcement that a roll-out plan is being firmed up and the first 14 areas to benefit being announced.
Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Porth Talbot, Newport, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Swansea and the Vale of GlamorganFirst 14 areas of Wales to be targeted by broadband project
The project in Wales is based around some £220m from BT, £90m from the EU and the rest being a mixture of Welsh money and BDUK funding, the total fund being £425m. Some of the BT money is what they are already spending on their commercial deployment of FTTC/P services. If the Next Generation Broadband Wales site which was last updated in September 2011 is to be believed the first connections are due to go live in Spring 2013, with the eventual aim of 96% premises connected to a FTTC or FTTP based service. The majority will be FTTC based, but there will be a scattering of pure FTTP areas in addition to the Fibre on Demand option.
"This is an extremely important programme for rural mid Wales and I hope it will transform the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in Powys."Montgomery Assembly Member Russell George
We hope the optimism is borne out with the project delivery and that the step change in speed promised will meet peoples needs. Wales has spent a fair chunk of money already on its Broadband Support Scheme that should in theory have seen not-spots largely eliminated and has resulted in a mixture of satellite, fixed wireless and cabinet based solutions being deployed.
There will be a lot of criticism that the project goals are short sighted, but this has to be balanced with a desire to provide a ubiquitous level of access in a fairly short time frame and love or hate the BT Group and its Openreach arm, by providing a base line service across the country as people and businesses move around there is some consistency.
The problem with almost all state funded projects is that many of the politicians involved are really just worried about winning their next term in office, and while there are some who have embraced the digital world, for many politicians at all levels broadband projects are just another bit of budget to manage. The crumbling of the bricks and mortar high street is the big warning that if the small market towns do not embrace the digital world there will be another wave of population movement towards the cities with their better digital infrastructure and easier access to the remaining physical resources we utilise in our working and personal life.
Update 5pm 21st January: It seems the dragon has really woke up, as there is now a new website for people living and working in Wales to keep an eye on for updates www.superfast-cymru.com. The site is has no actual information on it, but it is worth adding to your bookmarks for occassional checks, to see what is going on.