According to recent reports, there are still several hundred “not spots” - areas with limited broadband connectivity- strewn across Wales, affecting thousands of communities. A joint initiative by the Welsh Assembly Government and BT shall see four such communities, Beulah and Ystrad Meurig in Ceredigion and Cil-y-Cwm and Llanfynydd in Carmarthenshire, becoming broadband-enabled by the end of the summer.
The announcement comes just weeks after BT faced widespread criticism for quoting Beverley McCartney, a Carmarthenshire pensioner, more than £150,000 for broadband access. According to BT, providing a broadband connection in McCartney’s locality - Salem, near Llandeilo - would require an “exceptional amount of work”, involving laying more than 5km of cable.
When it comes to broadband connectivity, remote communities have always been at a disadvantage. With the current network infrastructure, strength of signal decreases the farther away a home is from the exchange, and private sector broadband providers are unwilling to invest in upgrading the hardware as these communities lack the critical mass required to make them commercially attractive.
In 2006, the Welsh Assembly Government, in association BT, announced an ongoing program that will upgrade the network hardware serving some of the identified “not-spots”. To date, the program has transformed around 8,500 premises in Wales from not-spots to broadband.
The network infrastructure serving the communities of Reynalton and Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire, Llanpumsaint and Bronwydd Arms in Carmarthenshire, Cilcennin in Ceredigion and Gwytherin in Conwy were upgraded last year.
Economy and Transport Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said that in the modern global economy, access to information is vital, and as such this program is a crucially important for these communities.
According to Ann Beynon, BT’s director for Wales, the latest announcement is a step in the right direction, and shows how it is possible to bring broadband to those communities where deployment costs are commercially infeasible.
However, in a less optimistic vain, Jonathan England, director of TFL, a Pembrokeshire-based wireless broadband provider comments that while the program is indeed a step in the right direction, yet at the rate it is going, many Welsh households will be without even the most basic broadband services for many years.