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Welsh rural digital connectivity makes waves

Words: Roger Milne
Broadband / Shutterstock_675560401

Welsh minister for digital infrastructure Julie James has said that the administration has commissioned research with planning colleagues, due imminently, on measures to guarantee that new-build homes in rural communities are connected to broadband.

Her comments came as the Welsh Government announced that contracts to connect nearly 100,000 homes in Wales to high-speed internet are being put out for tender.

It is hoped that up to 88,000 properties not reached by a previous project will be connected under an £80 million scheme targeting particular areas, with Powys and Ceredigion named as priorities.

Figures show superfast broadband – at least 30Mbps – is currently available to around 94 per cent of premises in Wales.

James told the Welsh Assembly on Tuesday (30 January) that firms were invited to bid for three new contracts to extend the reach of superfast broadband, with an emphasis on rural areas, business use and ultrafast 100Mbps services.

Voucher schemes to help individual residents or firms boost their own connection speeds would also continue to be offered.

A broadband outreach team will be set up to find solutions for communities that would not be served by firms winning contracts in the new tendering process.

During exchanges with assembly members, James suggested that more planning authorities should insist on digital connectivity as part of section 106 agreements.

Conservative AM Darren Millar said: “I share the concerns about the ability of the planning process to actually deal with some of these issues for new housing estates, but in addition to that, of course, we need to look at our permitted development rights, so that people who might need a mobile solution to their broadband needs can also get one."

He added: “I think we need to be forcing operators to share masts, and in addition to that we need to raise the potential heights of masts that can go ahead without permitted development rights here in Wales, which are obviously much lower than they are in other parts of the UK at the moment.”

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