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Broadway Partners Picked for 2 Pembrokeshire Broadband Pilots UPDATE

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020 (11:56 am) - Score 1,007
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The Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) council in South West Wales has today announced that Broadway Partners (UK ISP Broadway Broadband) have been chosen to build two new pilot networks in rural parts of the county, which will aim to deliver “gigabit-capable” broadband speeds to local premises. More pilots are expected to follow.

According to the Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC), some 88% of Pembrokeshire can already access a fixed “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) network, but this drops to 6.6% for “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) speeds and 2.5% are said to be “still stuck with less than 2Mbps.”

Suffice to say that there’s a fair gap left to be filled and a recent update from the Welsh Government (WG) noted that 6,366 premises in the county were not currently planned to benefit from any future upgrades (here). In response the PCC has been busy working on a new strategy to tackle that (here).

At present the PCC has already committed around £2m from its own budget to improve local digital connectivity and on top of that they’ve secured £4m as part of a bid to the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme.

The first fruits of this appear to centre around two pilot project communities under the PCC’s new Digital Connectivity Programme. Unfortunately today’s announcement doesn’t tell us precisely where these locations are or what technology they will receive, although Broadway Partners and the wider scheme seem to be focused upon Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP).

Cllr Paul Miller, PCC Cabinet Member for Economy, said:

“We have an enormous task ahead of us but we’re beginning to make real strides forward. While technically not an issue for Local Authorities, I’ve been clear since my appointment in 2017 that improving the county’s digital connectivity is key to our future economic prosperity. That makes it our issue.

With the first two pilot communities taking their first steps and two more hot on their heels, we are, as promised, ready to see fibre cables being laid across Pembrokeshire.

Cabinet has allocated more than £2m of Capital Funding to support the delivery of fibre, in addition to the significant grant award announced earlier this year.

On top of that, we estimate these pilot projects will draw down a further £810,000 of UK and Welsh Government Funding, investment which will be spent directly connecting Pembrokeshire Households to the UK Fibre Network.”

Michael Armitage, CEO of Broadway Partners, added:

“Our ambition is to ensure everyone is able to access fast, affordable and reliable broadband coverage, regardless of where they choose to live or set up business.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought attention to the digital divide and the increasing need for connectivity to keep the public informed, businesses running, employees productive and school children connected. Broadway is playing its part by working with Pembrokeshire County Council on its Digital Connectivity Programme, bringing fibre to New Moat, Ambleston and the wider area.”

By the sounds of it a lot of the funding for these pilots will be coming from the Government’s rural broadband voucher scheme (RGC), which has recently been topped-up by the WG and now offers up to £3,000 for homes and £7,000 for businesses to help them gain access to a faster gigabit style broadband network.

A further two pilots are due to be announced in the very near future (hopefully they’ll actually name the areas) and as many as 75 project areas are ultimately planned to benefit. Cllr Miller will be bringing a related digital infrastructure strategy to Cabinet in September 2020 for consideration and approval.

UPDATE 12:12pm

Thanks to one of our readers, Steve, for spotting – hidden under the FAQ section of their broadband website – that the current plan is to “start with the following broad project areas“: Crymych, New Moat, Ambleston and Dale. Why they couldn’t just put that in the press release, we don’t know. Out of those four we’ve told that New Moat and Ambleston will be the first to benefit.

UPDATE 8th July 2020

Added a late comment from Broadway Partners.

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