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Welsh Affairs Committee Launch Inquiry over Broadband Provision in Wales UK

Posted: 18th Mar, 2011 By: MarkJ
wales uk broadband mapuk wales flagThe Welsh Affairs Select Committee has announced that it is launching an inquiry into the woeful coverage of broadband internet access in Wales. The move follows concerns that Wales is being "left behind other parts of the UK" and beyond in the "digital revolution".

The inquiry comes only a few short months after the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) officially announced its Digital Wales plan at the end of last year, which aims to bring superfast 30Mbps broadband (minimum speed) to all of the country's businesses by the middle of 2016 and households by 2020.

Welsh Affairs Select Committee Statement

"The Government has recently made a significant commitment to investing in the UK’s Broadband infrastructure and developing next generation broadband. The Government’s aim, outlined in Britain's Superfast Broadband Future, is to give the country “the best broadband network in Europe by 2015”. The Government has announced £830 million of public funding to finance the broadband strategy to 2017.

Increasingly, reliable internet access is seen as a driver of economic performance and vital for business, education and people living alone or in isolated areas. There is, however, some concern that Wales is being left behind other parts of the UK and beyond in the digital revolution with reports of serious difficulties experienced by some people living in rural areas in gaining access to broadband services."

It will be interesting to see whether or not this inquiry touches on last year's gaffe by the uk government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which infamously rubbished one of the WAG's proposals for a "super-fast" broadband pilot (here). At the time the DCMS said that "there was more text in one answer box in the Herefordshire proposal than in the entire Welsh proposal". Wales never did get its own pilot and tensions have run high ever since.

However, Select Committees are largely concerned with examining the work of government departments and economic affairs. The results of these inquiries are public and many require a response from the government.
The Committee will examine:

• The current provision of broadband services in Wales;

• The UK Government’s broadband strategy, with particular regard to its potential impact on Wales;

• The case for further Next Generation Access (‘super-fast’ broadband) pilot projects based in Wales;

• The extent to which the strategy of the UK Government will complement the Welsh Assembly Government’s priorities for the future of broadband in Wales;

• Progress made towards promoting digital inclusion in Wales, including evidence of the take-up of broadband support schemes on offer;

• Progress made towards improving the provision of broadband infrastructure throughout Wales and eradicating broadband ‘notspots’; and

• Progress made towards improving mobile broadband coverage in Wales.
It's good to see an inquiry like this open and the timing will certainly give the government another reason to ensure that their promises do not fall short, especially with the next round of superfast broadband projects about to be announced.

The Committee has asked for any written submissions on these issues to reach them by 3rd May 2011, with public oral evidence sessions being expected to commence in June 2011. In other words we'll have to wait until the summer before the outcome is known, by which time the future broadband landscape for Wales may have improved.
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