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By: MarkJ - 5 July, 2010 (11:26 AM)
wales uk broadband mapThe Welsh Assembly Government has announced a new support scheme worth £2 Million for internet have-nots. The money would be made available to residents and businesses who live in parts of Wales where even basic broadband connection speeds (0.5Mbps (512Kbps)) remain unavailable; otherwise known as "not-spots".

So far some 1,800 individuals have declared a lack of broadband and each applicant could now benefit from up to £1,000 of cash to help them get online. The scheme is due to launch this summer but the grants are not expected to be handed out willy-nilly.

Instead the money would be made available "per property". Applicants would also need to provide one or more ISP quotes for the cost of a connection, including up to two years of service. However BT can charge tens or even hundreds of thousands to enable a local telephone exchange, which leaves only niche Wireless ( Wi-Fi , WiMAX ) and often inflexible Satellite alternatives.

The Welsh Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, said:

"Broadband is vital to ensure our country can develop the knowledge economy, improving the ability of businesses and individuals to network and innovate. So, despite current pressures on our budget, we are determined to find ways of opening up access for the relatively few areas in Wales that remain unable to benefit from broadband services."

The effort compliments the joint Regional Innovative Broadband Support Scheme (RIBS), which seeks to tackle any remaining "not-spot" locations in the country. So far it has helped to broadband enable 8,500 premises in Wales but has faced criticism for its slow progress.

The scheme does at least appear to recognise that public money will be needed to help people in remote rural communities get online. However it is somewhat short sighted, a quick-fix if you will, that does not propose a general solution. It's also unclear whether it will adhere to the government's 2Mbps Universal Service Commitment (USC) by 2012.

Presently around 95% of wales could be classed as "broadband enabled", although it's not known precisely how many "not-spots" there are. Similarly many of the remote broadband enabled areas are still stuck with speeds of 0.5-1Mbps. It is good to see new money being used in this way but we cannot shake the feeling that it is too little, too late and will be out of date before it's even introduced.
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