Welsh people need to know if, or when, they will receive next generation broadband – says National Assembly committee
People in Wales need to know if, or when, they will receive next generation broadband at their homes and businesses, according to a new report from a National Assembly committee.
The Public Accounts Committee wants to see better communication from the Welsh Government's Superfast Cymru programme after hearing evidence of conflicting information about availability, and frustration among customers.
While noting that reasonable progress has been made by the holder of the broadband contract, BT/Openreach, the Committee also points out that the deadline to supply an agreed number of premises with high-speed broadband has been extended by two years, with little in the way of financial penalties for the supplier.
The Superfast Cymru programme is worth £205million pounds to the public purse with an agreement between the Welsh Government and BT/Openreach to supply 96 per cent of Wales with next generation broadband.
"The need for households and businesses in Wales to have access to next generation broadband is becoming more and more important," said Darren Millar AM, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
"Broadband has the potential to help businesses in rural areas connect with the rest of the world and tap into enormous opportunities.
"What we heard during our inquiry is that people are frustrated about what information is available to them in terms of if, or when, they will be connected.
"Sometimes that information is conflicted and has knock-on impacts for the decisions they make about where they will live and how their business can grow.
"We want to see a much clearer communications campaign from the Welsh Government and the Superfast Cymru supplier, BT, to ensure people have confidence in this scheme and know what to expect from it."
The Committee makes 10 recommendations in its report (PDF, 332KB), including:
- The Committee be provided with an update on work to improve communications and marketing of the benefits of access to superfast broadband no later than September 2016;
- The Welsh Government provides assurances that the project extension will not lead to further delays for premises that were included in the original contract, and continues to monitor BT's progress to ensure the project is delivered within the revised timescale, and;
- An update be provided by the Welsh Government on the progress of rollout to difficult-to-reach premises no later than September 2016.