Communities in Powys which were left in the lurch by the Welsh Government's Superfast Cymru scheme are set to be snubbed again by the successor project to the high speed broadband rollout, according to information obtained by Montgomeryshire Assembly Member, Russell George.
After questioning the Welsh Government on the rollout of phase 2 of the Superfast Cymru scheme, the North Powys AM has gleaned that only 1,410 premises in the whole of Powys out of the 17,960 premises which remain without high speed broadband will be included as part of phase 2 of the scheme.
Phase 2 of Superfast Cymru aims to support the connection of premises not met under Superfast Cymru phase 1. The first premises are forecast to be connected by the end of 2019, with the vast majority of them being served by a full fibre connection (fibre to the premises).
Commenting on the injustice of Montgomeryshire's rural communities being left in limbo, Mr George said:
"Despite the Welsh Government setting aside around £85 million for the second phase of Superfast Cymru to roll out high speed broadband across Wales, only £22 million has been allocated, leaving a glaring hole of £62 million not assigned to the project.
"The project only aims to reach 26,000 premises out of the 93,000 which have been identified as being without high speed broadband across Wales and there’s to be little change for residents of the areas in Powys left behind by the first phase.
"Counties struggling with the worst high speed broadband coverage in Wales are once again going to be left in the lurch. Only 11% of the premises in Powys which were eligible for inclusion in phase 2 of the scheme will be covered."
Under questioning from Mr George in the National Assembly this week (Wednesday 13th February), the Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Economy & Infrastructure, Lee Waters AM, admitted that "there is more profit available for private companies to provide faster speeds to the people who already have broadband, than it is to reach those who have no broadband."
Responding, Mr George added:
"It appears as though the Welsh Government are at the mercy of Openreach in selecting the easiest premises to enable for high speed broadband connectivity rather than insisting that public money is spent and prioritised on the areas which need it the most - those with poor or no broadband whatsoever!
"Residents and businesses across Powys are being forgotten time and time again when it comes to their basic right to have the same broadband connectivity as residents and companies in Cardiff and Swansea.
“The areas neglected by the first stage of the Superfast Cymru roll-out should be being prioritised at the very least, but the Welsh Government is failing to manage their own project and get the best result for Mid Wales.
“It is regrettable that this large amount of public money is being wasted if it doesn't correctly target the areas of Mid & West Wales which need it most.
"Unfortunately, it appears that communities in Montgomeryshire who have been left stranded, often with broadband infrastructure hanging from poles at the end of their driveways, will still have to wait until the UK Government's Universal Service Obligation for 10 Mbit/s broadband comes into force in 2020 before they can access decent and reliable broadband which is rapidly becoming the "fourth utility" and an essential part of modern life."