The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the importance of broadband connectivity for homes and businesses across Wales whether that is for home learning, staying in touch with loved ones or working from home.
Members will know the work that we have carried out over recent years and the way this investment has transformed the digital landscape in Wales. They will also know there is still more work to do. Today I want to update Members on further developments
An Open Market Review (OMR) exercise was carried out in the latter half of last year. This was a large data exercise, working with the telecommunications industry, to identify those properties that remain without access to at least superfast broadband or are not in any plans to receive it. The OMR found that there are around 79,000 properties (categorised as ‘white’ premises) that do not have access to superfast broadband and are not in any plans to be given access in the next three years. The data has now been published on our website and a breakdown of ‘white’ premises by local authority is attached to this statement.
We will continue to support those still not connected through our range of measures. Members will be aware that the Welsh Government has been providing a top-up to the UK Government led Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to reflect the higher costs of providing full fibre connectivity in Wales. The scheme has now come to an end and has been replaced by the Rural Gigabit Connectivity project. I am pleased to inform you that we are again stepping in to provide additional Welsh Government resources to give Wales a generous package of measures not bettered anywhere in the UK. We will provide a Wales top-up for the new scheme of an additional £1,500 for residential properties and £3,500 for businesses. This will take the maximum available to premises in Wales £3,000 and £7,000 respectively. To help focus the funding on properties that need it most only ‘white’ premises will be eligible. The top-up funding will only be released when the UK funding ceilings are breached.
As clearly demonstrated in the findings of the OMR there remain homes and businesses in Wales that aren’t being served by the market. So we are using our funding to deliver new and innovative ways of connecting whole communities working with local government and social enterprises through our £10 million Local Broadband Fund, which I outlined in November last year. Work on the fund had been paused because resources both within the Welsh Government and local authorities have been redeployed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, however, the scheme is now underway.
The Access Broadband Cymru scheme continues to deliver connectivity solutions and my officials have worked to streamline the application process to make it easier and quicker.
I will continue to provide updates to Members.
Breakdown by local authority.
CAERPHILLY COUNTY BOROUGH
CHESHIRE WEST AND CHESTER *
ISLE OF ANGLESEY
NEATH PORT TALBOT
RHONDDA CYNON TAFF
VALE OF GLAMORGAN
* These premises are physically within Wales but are categorised by Address Base Premium as being associated with an English Local Authority.