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First Projects in Wales Benefit from £10m Local Broadband Fund UPDATE

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 (11:41 am) - Score 1,392
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The Welsh Government (WG) has today named the first projects to benefit from their new £10 million Local Broadband Fund (LBF), which aims to help bring “fast and reliable broadband” ISP networks (often FTTP powered) to some of the country’s most poorly served rural communities.

The new fund is focused upon areas that won’t benefit from the WG’s £52.5m Phase 2 Superfast Cymru contract with BT (Openreach), which currently expects to improve the coverage of “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) by extending gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology to another 39,000 premises by June 2022 (c.15,000 premises have already completed).

NOTE: At present 95%+ of Wales can access speeds of 30Mbps and 26% are within reach of a 1000Mbps+ capable network and rising.

Under the LBF, local authorities and social enterprises in Wales are being encouraged to bid for the public funding in order to help bring fast and reliable broadband to communities with poor connectivity. The next stage of the fund is already open for applications and this is due to close on 28th January 2021.

However, the first three projects, which will share a total investment of £1.1 million from the LBF (first tranche), have now been named.

LBF’s Initial Projects

— Llanthony Valley, Monmouthshire – Hybrid fibre / wavelength backhaul solution to bring better connections to the area. The valley has 122 premises, 30% of which are businesses in this popular tourist area. It is currently one of the most poorly connected areas in the county.

— Monmouthshire County Council scheme to build mixed wireless and fibre optic access network capable of delivering speeds of between 50Mbs and 1Gbs across Monmouthshire to digitally deprived communities. It will also support the Welsh Government’s 5G testbed project which aims to connect rural communities in Monmouthshire and semi urban communities in Blaenau Gwent.

— Michaelston y Fedw Internet Community Interest company – Since 2018 the company has provided 240 FTTP connections to rural properties which previously struggled to obtain a useable broadband service. Currently all active equipment is installed in a shipping container in Michaelston y Fedw. The funding will contribute towards a secure data centre and fibre cables from that centre, which would also provide opportunity for future expansion to more premises.

Lee Waters, WG Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said:

“Over this difficult and challenging year the importance of fast reliable broadband has become even more apparent. While this area is not devolved to Wales we are taking action to bring faster broadband speeds and better mobile connectivity where we can.

While the vast majority of premises across all parts of Wales can now access superfast speeds, following our intervention with Superfast Cymru, we know there are communities which continue to be poorly served.

The Local Broadband Fund allows local authorities to nominate particular schemes which will specifically target communities where there are issues with slow speeds and poor mobile signal. I’m pleased today to announce the first three schemes to benefit from this funding. This will deliver a real difference to those communities.

I look forward to making more announcements over the next few months and will be working with local authorities to identify the communities and schemes which would have the most to gain from this fund.”

The Michaelston-y-Fedw Internet CIC (Myfi) is already quite a familiar one as they were one of the first rural communities in Wales to build their own 1Gbps FTTP network (here), although sadly the WG hasn’t included much information about the other two. We also don’t get a funding split between the individual projects or much indication of targets and time-scales, which is disappointing.

However, we wouldn’t be surprised if Broadway Partners (ISP Broadway Broadband) were involved with one or both of the Monmouthshire porjects, which is a county where they’ve recently been quite active (here). We have asked for further details and hope to report back if something arrives.

All of this is good news, although it’s worth remembering that £10m isn’t enough to solve the remaining problem and for that many of the hopes are likely to switch to the UK Government’s new £5bn Gigabit Broadband Programme.

UPDATE 14th Jan 2021

We’ve got a few more details on the funding split.

— £356k capital and £30k revenue for Llanthony community

— £250k capital and £25k revenue for Monmouthshire Carrier Grade

— £419,660 capital and £106,387 revenue for MyFi.

For both Monmouthshire schemes the supplier will be appointed through a competitive procurement process.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar GNewton says:

    None of these funds will be sufficient to create widely available fibre broadband, and these subsidized networks will be owned by private telecom businesses like BT and others, with the funders not having any shares in them nor any profits from them.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      Didn’t Myfi use government funded vouchers?

  2. Avatar Andrew says:

    Yeah existing services bidding to make them better rather than expanding – Nice one 🙁

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