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Wales UK Extends Broadband Support Scheme by Six Months

Saturday, April 6th, 2013 (8:22 am) - Score 459
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The Welsh Government’s £4m Broadband Support Scheme, which offers grants worth up to £1,000 to help those living in rural parts of Wales where sub-2Mbps internet download speeds or “NotSpots” still exist, has been extended by six months after it was originally scheduled to close on 31st March 2013.

The announcement itself was made a couple of weeks ago but for some reason it completely slipped under our radar. Normally we wouldn’t cover old news but this one is important and deserves a separate update of its own.

Back in February the Welsh Government confirmed (here) that the scheme, which first started in 2010, would finally come to a close because the larger £425m Superfast Cymru programme with BT, which aims to ensure that 96% of Welsh homes and businesses will have access to “world class broadband speeds” of up to 80Mbps (FTTC) by the end of 2015, would take precedence.

Instead Wales planned to setup a new scheme that would be designed to help the last 4% of “hardest-to-reach properties“, which was supposed to be made available in the spring. But so far no details about the new scheme have been revealed and instead the BSS has been extended for another six months.

Edwina Hart, Welsh Business Minister, said:

I am delighted that we are able to extend this successful scheme until the end of September 2013 so that more communities across Wales can benefit.

Work is already underway on the Superfast Cymru programme, which, when combined with commercial roll-out, will deliver high speed fibre broadband to 96% of premises in Wales. The extension of the Broadband Support Scheme means we can continue to help those premises which urgently require a broadband solution.

Together with Superfast Cymru this extension will ensure we can continue to deliver our commitment to eradicate ‘not-spots’ and ‘slow-spots’ across Wales.

Alongside this, the roll-out of Superfast Cymru will ensure that there is fair and equal access to next-generation broadband in rural communities.”

The scheme has so far helped satellite and wireless ISPs, such as TFL-Group and eXwavia, to bring faster broadband to a number of digitally isolated homes and villages. Indeed the latest stats reveal that it’s helped to deliver broadband solutions to 4,700 premises and 31 communities across Wales.

But the effort has not been without its critics, with some complaining that the BSS was poorly promoted and only gave approved applicants just 14 days to accept the grant (hard luck if you happened to be on holiday). The new extension may also be short lived as the BSS’s existing budget has already been “fully committed”.

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