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Welsh Government Quietly Unveil £10m Rural Broadband Fund

Wednesday, Nov 13th, 2019 (9:34 am) - Score 2,239
wales map point uk

The Welsh Government (WG) yesterday announced – during a debate on Digital Connectivity – a new £10 million fund that will be targeted to help bring “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) ISP networks to poorly served communities in the mostly rural final 5% of Wales.

At present around 95% of Welsh premises should have access to order a fixed “superfast broadband” service, although Gigabit-capable “full fibre” (FTTP) networks only cover around 10%. The WG’s recent £22.5m Phase 2 Superfast Cymru contract with BT (Openreach) aims to improve upon this a little by extending FTTP to an additional 26,000 premises by March 2021 (details and here) but a big gap will remain.

Meanwhile the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has pledged to have “gigabit-capable broadband … sprouting in every household” by the end of 2025, which is being supported by a public investment of £5bn to help foster an outside-in style roll-out that focuses upon the final 20% of hardest to reach (e.g. rural) areas. However the PM is yet to reveal any details of how this will actually be delivered or what Wales can expect to receive.

Nevertheless the aforementioned Phase 2 contract had previously hinted at plans for a future Community Fund and so the news of a new £10m commitment to support this will not come as much of a surprise. Unfortunately what we don’t get is any clue as to how it will work, although some degree of co-funding with communities and operators does seem likely.

Lee Water AM, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said:

“We’ll be seeking assurances that the amount of [gigabit broadband] funding from the UK Government is enough to reach all parts of Wales. And based on what they have said, action will not begin to be taken until 2023 at the earliest, so even though this is not a devolved area, we will continue to act to make sure that the people of Wales are connected to this vital infrastructure, and we will focus our efforts on where both the private sector and the UK Government are not acting.

So, building on the work that we have been doing, I can today announce that we will be creating a new £10 million fund to help the final 5 per cent of people who are still online. And because of the innovative way that we’ve negotiated our contract with BT – and I must pay tribute to my predecessor, Julie James and our dedicated team of officials – we are receiving a gain share from the Superfast Cymru contract, which we always intended to use to further advance broadband delivery across Wales.

Now, this fund will not just be for rural areas, but it’ll be open to any community in Wales that has not yet been reached by our Superfast scheme. I want to work with local authorities and other partners to design the fund in a way that’ll best help them to respond to the needs of the communities to get them connected. Now, some councils are already taking the initiative to help people access grants, and I want to see how we can scale that to a regional level.

Representatives from local authorities and my officials have already come together to form a digital rural infrastructure taskforce to recommend practical actions that can be taken in the short term to address particular challenges in rural Wales. We’re also working alongside local authorities to attract funding via the UK Government’s local full fibre network and rural gigabyte connectivity schemes to upgrade copper connections to public sector buildings. And this will help drive full fibre into the heart of local communities, and this collaborative working will also develop the relationships and lay the foundations for the new project.”

The reality here is that the new £10m fund is just a drop of what will actually be needed. The WG has also just published a consultation on their recent Open Market Review (OMR) of existing and future superfast broadband coverage over the next 3 years (here), which reveals that 96,111 premises have been classified as “white” and in need of future intervention to help improve their connectivity.

A fund of £10m, if hypothetically used to only deploy FTTP technology in the final 5% of areas, might help to cover anything from around 4,000 to 8,000 extra premises (depending upon the level of public subsidy required per property). On the other hand it could go further if they make the technology mix more flexible.

Meanwhile the OMR consultation is expected to run until 12th December 2019 and after that a map of the proposed intervention area will be released. Hopefully the future completion of this OMR may also help the WG and Openreach to reach agreement on the long-running issue of areas with part-built fibre (here), which is otherwise known as “stranded assets.” Credits to Steve for spotting the £10m fund and informing us.

NOTE: The table below excludes a handful of border premises in English counties.

White Premises within Each Local Authority (Wales)

Local Authority  Number of White Premises 
Blaenau Gwent  1,488
Bridgend  2,684
Caerphilly  1,372
Cardiff  1,028
Carmarthenshire  12,838
Ceredigion  7,181
Conwy  3,794
Denbighshire  4,689
Flintshire  3,730
Gwynedd  8,969
Isle of Anglesey  3,466
Merthyr Tydfil  900
Monmouthshire  5,590
Neath Port Talbot  1,941
Newport  1,751
Pembrokeshire  9,819
Powys  13,188
Rhondda Cynon Taff  3,237
Swansea  2,440
Torfaen  998
Vale of Glamorgan  2,213
Wrexham  2,785
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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
3 Responses
  1. Avatar photo NGA for all says:

    Think Broadband put the number at 68k premises on Nov 7th, less the 26k under contract leaves a more manageable number.

    30k extra premises have popped in. That is a bit disappointing. Still no report on the monies owed to the process.

  2. Avatar photo David says:

    There must be local elections coming…

  3. Avatar photo polyfibre says:

    The Pembrokeshire number will be slightly lower than shown.

    After chasing through the Welsh Assembly, BT OR have just fully installed FTTP to one area of new-ish housing – around 150 premises. For some reason, the existing installation was mixed – some FTTC, some ADSL. And the ADSL was appalling. Although claimed to be about 4 Mbps, I have seen both 0.07 and 0.0 shown on a speed checker in the past few days – which accurately reflected my perception of speed. Superfast Cymru passed us by.

    We are just waiting for the last inch – fibre now reaches house but needs connecting into a box.

    A big plus to OpenReach staff – every single individual has been friendly, helpful, appeared competent and worked hard.

Comments are closed

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