Mid Wales is a hub of innovative business and enterprising people. Poor 3G and 4G mobile signal and lack of high speed broadband are holding the local economy back.
My postbag continues to be dominated by frustrated residents and businesses asking for more clarity from BT about when they will have access to fibre broadband.
59% of premises in Montgomeryshire can already receive a superfast service and work is progressing in more rural areas too with many more areas set to benefit from fibre broadband between now and the conclusion of the project in June 2017. It's my role to scrutinise the Welsh Government to ensure they meet their target of providing 96% of premises in Wales with access to fast fibre broadband.
It’s good news that 96% of premises in Wales will benefit from this broadband upgrade, but due to its rural makeup, I’m concerned that a high proportion of the final 4% may be in Montgomeryshire.
I’m therefore keen to ensure that these premises aren’t forgotten and I would like people to be told as early as possible if they are not going to benefit from the project so that the viability of other solutions such as wireless, satellite and mobile broadband can be explored.
If you would like information on your specific circumstances, you are welcome to contact me and I will make enquiries on your behalf.
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And What About Those Not Covered By Superfast Cymru?
Welsh Government’s Access Broadband Cymru
Grants of £400 and £800 are available to individuals and businesses to obtain 10mb and 30mb broadband through an alternative solution such as satellite or wireless for example:-
Welsh Government’s Ultrafast Scheme
Grants of up to £10,000 are available for businesses to obtain 100mb connections through leased lines for example:-
BT Community Fibre
BT will work with communities and co-invest in order to bring fibre broadband to those missed out by Superfast Cymru.
In November 2015, I invited all four network providers (EE, O2, Vodafone and Three) to meet with me in Newtown to discuss mobile coverage issues. I also invited a number of community leaders and representatives from all areas of Montgomeryshire to join me at the meeting.
The lack of mobile signal along with broadband has always been an issue for Montgomeryshire and rural Wales which is why, when I became an Assembly Member, I set up the National Assembly Cross Party Group on Digital Communications in an effort to bring together operators and other interested parties to improve the situation.
There will always be challenges for rural areas in providing mobile coverage due to the lack of a dense population and the topography of the area, making it difficult to build and position masts for the best signal coverage for a particular area. The operators, however, have specific targets to meet. For example, O2 has confirmed that they have an obligation of providing 4G to a minimum of 95% of Wales by 2017 and are also looking at upgrading their 2G and 3G networks.
With regards to future coverage improvements, all operators are in agreement that, although they are in competition with one another for customers, they need to work together with other public bodies i.e. UK Government, Welsh Government and Local Authorities, to improve and build the future infrastructure needed.
In my view, current planning policies are far too restrictive in order to meet customer demands. Therefore, current regulations and barriers to planning need to change. There is also a need for customer, political and economic pressure to be applied to help push for improved coverage and service.
You can be assured that our MP Glyn Davies and I will continue to lobby the UK Government and Welsh Government. Partial not spots also need to be looked at and addressed as it is essential that we have access to good and reliable mobile and broadband services that are fit for the 21st Century.
I will also be keeping a close eye on future commitments made by the network operators and will support them in any discussions to build new infrastructure appropriate for the area.