Wales and the EU (The Broadband Picture)

The EU is making steady progress towards its Digital Agenda target; that everyone should have 30Mbps Broadband by 2020.

Wales has roughly aligned its Superfast Cymru programme across the EU Digital Agenda which aims to provide; “basic” (0.5-4Mbps) and “competitively-priced” broadband internet access to all Europeans by 2013 and for everybody within the EU to have access to superfast broadband speeds of 30Mbps+ by 2020 (with 50% or more households subscribing to 100Mbps+).

The map above (which is based on 2012 data) is an interesting one for Wales, since vast sways of rural Wales score a 0%.  Whilst ‘Superfast Cymru’ which uses BT’s Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) is focused on the main population centres of the South and North Wales and potentially overbuilding existing State Aided projects, the beautiful counties of Pembrokeshire, Powys and Ceredigion which are home thousands businesses and dominated by agriculture and tourism, are set to lag the rest of the country.

New technologies set to extend the reach of FTTC bode well for Wales in the long term. That said there is a real challenge in the short term to medium term (between now and 2020), for those residents and businesses in Rural Wales to ensure they not isolated from the BT Network and also enjoy a usable; fast, reliable competitively priced Broadband.

*Note: To enlarge the graphic Click on the map

SNAF and Superfast Cymru

The Welsh Government is continuing to offer £1000 for people who cannot Broadband speeds of 2Mbps and whose premises are anticipated to remain outside of the ‘Superfast Cymru’ deployment.

That said recent complaints around who can access the WG grants continue to hit local press.  Furthermore concerns of the levels of quality of service provided by small regional providers who pocketed the WG grant has also caused concerns both for end users and WG.

Over the border, Northamptonshire County Council have taken a more serious approach to get high speed Broadband those households and business overlookd by the BT superfast rollout. NCC’s Superfast Northamptonshire Access to Finance (SNAF) initiative plans to provide a loan to Service Providers to invest in the more difficult, costly or remote areas to complement their BT superfast roll out.

Now that WG are exploring ways of overbuilding its own Fibrespeed network in North Wales which barely 4 years old. Is it about time that WG raised its aspirations higher to serve those who won’t be covered by Superfast Cymru, rather than simply doling out sticking plaster grants to fund short term and what sometimes turn out to be unreliable solutions?

Mobile in Powys

Mobile infrastructure in Powys is set improve along the A470.

The UK Gov £150M Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) is targeted to provide mobile coverage for 60,000 premises and 10 key roads across the four UK nations.  For Wales, the A470 trunk road has been identified for coverage.

If you take you £150K as the cost to deploy a mobile mast, £150m will provide approximately 1000 masts across whole of the UK.

So whilst public expectations can sometimes be wide of the mark in a world where; Ofcom report that Vodafone failed to meet its obligation to deploy 3G, deployment maps like the one opposite are released and political pr is produced, road users and some residents along the A470 in Powys may start experiencing better mobile coverage next year.

For further information on MIP in Wales click here or here or here

Welsh Government – On withholding information

The Welsh Government (WG) is open as to why it does not want to disclose information about it’s ‘Superfast Cymru’ programme.

After initially denying a request under the ‘Freedom of Information Act’ here, WG Head of ICT Infrastructure Simon Jones states: ‘I believe the public interest in withholding this information is greater than that in releasing it’.

If you’re interested in knowing where public money is being spent on Broadband, there are many points to consider. For your information three arguments put forward by WG against disclosure of information are:

  • BT’s Commercial Interests
  • Substantial Harm to BT
  • Not in the Public Interest

Are we underestimating the challenge of the status quo to delivering public utility projects? WG response to another ‘freedom of information request’ here.

Open Government contracting with Openreach (a BT Business) clearly produces winners and losers. WG state that ‘disclosing the terms & conditions would prejudice BT’s competitive position and create expectations that, if not met would harm BT’s reputation and share price’.

Perhaps WG are not so opposed to transparency and accountability, but rather have yet to grips with public participation and policy implementation and therefore simply retreat and raise the drawbridge amidst angry accusations of face saving.