The partial launch of phase 2 of the Welsh Government's next generation broadband strategy has raised more questions than answers according to local AM, Russell George.
The Welsh Labour Government had committed in its 2011 manifesto that 100% of premises across Wales would have superfast broadband by 2015. But according to the Minister responsible, Julie James AM, only 92% have been reached, leaving a significant minority, mainly in rural areas such as Montgomeryshire, stranded.
Responding to questioning from Montgomeryshire AM, Russell George, Ms James said the service was available to all households depending on “how much you were willing to pay for it".
Mr George said:
"The whole delivery of phase two of superfast broadband delivery in Wales has fallen behind schedule and the result is that a significant minority of people in rural Montgomeryshire have been left in the lurch. There should have been a seamless transition between phase one and two of the scheme but nine months has gone by since the end of phase 1 of the scheme, serving to add to the frustration of people who remain without fibre broadband.
The statement announcing phase 2 of the Superfast Cymru scheme, which was made in the National Assembly by the Leader of the House this week (Tuesday 23rd October) also confirmed that the evaluation of tenders for lot two of Superfast Cymru(East Wales) is still ongoing. The result of this being next generation broadband upgrades have only been awarded to homes in lots one (North West Wales) and three (South West Wales), representing 16% of the 98,145 homes identified by the Open Market Review which the Welsh Government conducted to assess which premises would be eligible for assistance under phase 2.
Mr George has asked for clarity about whether or not the remaining 84% of homes are in lot two and that the £67 million of the £80 million that has yet to be spent will be allocated to meeting the target of universal access to high speed broadband across Wales.
Commenting, Mr George, added:
“That 92% of Welsh homes now have access to superfast broadband is hugely welcome, as it provides for the vital need of putting Wales on the global stage in its capability to do business effectively and ensure equitable broadband access for households.
"But the fact of the matter is that many homes and businesses in rural Mid Wales still can't enjoy the high speed broadband which is enjoyed by our urban neighbours and a significant proportion of households and businesses across Wales are being left in limbo by unacceptable delays in the award of phase 2 contracts.
"The Welsh Government has clearly broken its 2011 manifesto promise to deliver next generation broadband to 100% of Welsh homes and businesses by 2015 – a failure which endures to this day.
“This only goes to demonstrate the worrying and continuous record of the Welsh Government on large-scale public projects which often results in delays and overspend through mismanagement.
"‘I will continue to make the case that rural Montgomeryshire needs to be prioritised, and I’ll continue to take up individual cases with the Minister."