(Title Image: Welsh Conservatives)
This week’s short debate was led by Leader of the Opposition in the Senedd, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.).
People need to see where broadband investments are being made
He said the issue of broadband connective was one of the most frequently raised issues with him after hospital services. While he accepted some progress has been made but more needed to be done to reach the last 2-3% of households which have sub-standard internet connections.
He called for more transparency on the geographical spread of broadband investment, particular with regard a £60million surplus left after the next round of Openreach work:
“….the Deputy Minister confirmed he was not aware of how the surplus money will be used….Therefore, perhaps, in responding to today’s debate, at the very least the Deputy Minister will commit to providing a breakdown of exactly how much money will be spent in each local authority area so that, in the interests of transparency, the people of Wales can see where the money will be targeted and how their communities will be prioritised….”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM
45% of farmers believed their broadband connections weren’t good enough for their business interests – particularly in light of many farm services and applications moving online-only. It also affects tourism as many destinations need to offer good internet connectivity to attract guests and market themselves.
Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), added that 13% of premises in his constituency had poor broadband connectivity and only 11% of the estimated 10,000 properties without access to superfast broadband have been included in the latest round of Openreach work.
A Market Failure
Replying on behalf of the government, Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters (Lab, Llanelli), said that while broadband wasn’t devolved he agreed with the idea that broadband should be subject to a postal service style universal service obligation – something the UK Government has so far resisted. The whole situation points to a market failure:
“Paul Davies mentioned the phenomenon we’re seeing, where service providers are falling over themselves to get even faster speeds to people in urban settings and are not interested in providing any speeds to people in some rural settings. Now, that is a market failure. We hear often from the benches there of the importance of allowing the market to be supreme, and this is what happens when the market is supreme: there is an exclusion.”
– Deputy Economy Minister, Lee Waters
He added that the money was there, but private companies have so far shown little interest in connecting to the final few not-spots. As for what additional action the government is taking, they’ve topped up the UK Government’s gigabit broadband voucher scheme and they are also considering non-traditional measures like using TV “white space” (space taken up by old analogue signals) to deliver 10Mbps connections in parts of Monmouthshire.