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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 06:26 GMT 07:26 UK
£100m to speed up internet access
Welsh Assembly ministers have pledged to subsidise the cost of commercial broadband internet access for 310,000 homes.
The unprecedented £100m public investment will also help pay for high-speed satellite links to small businesses in rural areas.
It funds the assembly government's new Broadband Wales programme, which aims to thread fast web benefits through the fabric of Welsh life, pushing the internet into areas uncatered for by current packages.
It is the biggest government broadband investment ever in the UK, according to Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies.
Broadband cables can transfer large amounts of data between internet users in neighbouring communities or around the world.
They let customers enjoy broadcast-quality films, video conferencing and other facilities, and allow enterprises to conduct meaningful business without moving to broadband hotspots.
But BT has been criticised for the pace of its conversion of Welsh telephone exchanges to high-speed ADSL capacity.
And ntl's fast cable internet access is only available in certain parts because the companies feel Wales-wide roll-out is not commercially viable, particularly rural communities.
Together with £23m from the Welsh Development Agency, the Welsh Assembly is now intervening to put Wales on a "level playing field".
Ministers want to drive down the cost of these terrestrial packages by 30%, bringing broadband to 310,00 more homes and 67,000 businesses by 2007.
They will also wire up all business parks and mount a high-profile promotion campaign.
Those aims will be targetted from April 2003, when Broadband Wales becomes fully operational under "high-profile" directorship at Cardiff Bay.
Wales already joins Northern Ireland at the foot of the UK's internet ladder, while the UK still trails European neighbours in the race to create a broadband nation.
Ireland, for example, unveiled in March a 300m euro programme to build a 50,000km fibre optic broadband network linking 123 towns and cities.
But, while the Irish government is managing a competition-neutral public/private partnership, the Welsh Assembly Government can only work to encourage private access providers' investment.
Andrew Davies said: "To build a more prosperous Wales for the future we must have strong communication infrastructure.
"It is essential to help us generate more wealth, give people more skills and ensure that Wales plays its full place in the modern world.
"[This] will push Wales ahead of the rest of the UK in public broadband access."
WDA chief executive Graham Hawker added: "The availability of affordable higher bandwidth services will enable Welsh businesses to compete more effectively in the global marketplace regardless of their location."
The agency and the assembly will be "aggregating public sector monies" including European Objective One funds to pay for the project, including £23m committed earlier from the assembly.
It follows the Cymru Arlein strategy published by the Cardiff Bay administration in 2001, which called for more widespread internet access and has already begun to wire up libraries around Wales.
BBC News Online readers' comments on the Welsh Assembly announcement
Looks good but what is the point when there is no intenetion to provide in my area at Marshfield for years!!!!!!
ADSL and other forms of "high-speed" internet access may not actually improve the situation for home users in the long run unless web designers finally come to realise that they should not fill their pages with so much junk code and flashy graphics. My fear is that with faster access designers will just fill the pipe with even more rubbish.
Finally! We're getting broadband, but I just fear that the big cities may once again have preference when it comes to being 'the chosen one'. A 10-year plan for broadband, in my opinion, comes too late and, by the time it's completed halfway, it's most likely to be outdated. We'll never get ahead this way in the technology battle in Wales. However, when it gets here, I will receive it with open arms. Broadband has been available for over three years now... it's about time Wales reeps some of the benefits.
However, I would like to know how this money is likely to be spent. Will it be used to subsidise BT to provide xDSL services where exchanges are not curently enabled, or will Wales create it's own broadband network, using technologies like wireless (802.11b) and fibre (where I have heard of European grants availible for setup of this type of network), to compete with our European neighbours, where 10mbps and 100mbps connections to homes are common-place?
Announcements are all well and good, but how do we, the individual citizens of Wales, actually get help with broadband access? While the assembly talks, Wales is losing jobs. At this rate, there'll be no-one left who can afford a computer to hook up to broadband
This is a good, bold move. They have set some high targets, which the UK Government has failed to do. They are building demand ahead of supply by grouping 1,200 public sector organisations whose business private sector companies will chase. They want to enhance all media, but a lot of exact detail is missing.
Great news for Wales!! Here's hoping they look beyond BT for solutions ;) And schools are due to get £350 mill !!!!
This announcement is very positive. If this announcement lives up to the hype, broadband access should no longer be a problem, allowing us to grow our business within Wales. We are very keen to see the changes introduced as quicky as possible and are hopeful that subsidy of satelite access by September, means September!
This isn't £100m of new money, it includes the £18.4m from October. It's all good publicity when Mr Andrew Davies releases such large amounts of money, but since the last investment of £18.4m, we haven't seen a single broadband connection as a direct result - so don't get your hopes up. I truly hope that this time the government will stick their hands in their pockets and spend it wisely. I would also call upon Andrew Davies to start spending this money ASAP.
I assume the £100m spend will be funded from Welsh taxpayers as the initiative is coming from the Welsh Assembly. No taxation without representation (as someone once said in a similar situation).
The funding is excellent and the subsidies are superb for businesses. But the problem in Wales is that there is no demand. Businesses don't know how to benefit from the internet and I don't believe government organisations have a good understanding of that. There needs to be an awareness campaign, or this announcement won't change the attitude of businesses in Wales.
Broadband should be available to everyone. The rest of the world have got it - why can't wales have it? Come on the welsh office; show BT what to do. I am from Merthyr Tydfil - also disabled - and I would like broadband very much. Very disappointed with BT - with all our technology, why are we waiting?
Fantastic - now people in Wales can have 24-hour access to pornograph,y too. £100m of government money well spent, I think.
Nice for Wales, but I live in Hertfordshire, 17 miles from London and there are 'no plans' to upgrade our rural exchange. Satellite is too expensive, so who will subsidise ADSL in rural Hertfordshire?
Excellent news for Wales. Something like this is needed. The demand may not be there now, but I'm sure it will be by the time this has got off the ground. Now how about the rest of us? BT isn't even interested in whether or not people where I live want broadband. How about Scotland? The rural areas there need help too.
This surely could be damaging for the already ailing employment situation in Wales. With dismissals at work for searching for porn on the rise, I can see that as the internet gets faster then dismissals for looking at lewd pictures at work can only increase!!
The only way to get full national coverage is via satellite. And it is both two-way (premium) and hybrid (less expensive) - which is what we told the Welsh Assembly in Aug 2001. Project just got sunk and mired for some reason. Shame really - only needed less than £3m to put dedicated Welsh platform in place...
I myself am a young online gamer. Me and many of my friends all have to live with a nasty 56k connection which only connects at a max of 28.8k due to BT lowering the quality of our lines. It is nearly impossible to play games on public servers because the ping becomes far to high and we get lots of lag. The entire Rhondda Cynon Taff area has a bad internet connection on conventional lines and it's about time broadband is coming into our area. We were promised ADSL connections in 2000 but BT stopped its campagin. If this one is never put forward, there will be a LOT of angry Welsh citizens!
I am from Blackwood in Gwent, where there are thousands of internet users. BT do not consider it viable to include us in their roll-out, whereas Abergavenny, a comparatively small town, gets broadband in September. It seems that BT have cherry-picked the areas in which it will be easier to set up broadband. Will Broadband Wales have the same plans? I assume so.
I would like to know how this money is likely to be spent. Will it be used to subsidise BT to provide xDSL services where exchanges are not curently enabled (taking note of the fact that xDSL is limited to 5km cable length from the exchange, so probably impractical for most of rural Wales), or will Wales create it's own broadband network, using technologies like wireless (802.11b) and fibre (where I have heard of european grants availible for setup of this type of network), to compete with our European neighbours, where 10mbps and 100mbps connections to homes are common-place? Is this money just going to be indirectly pumped straight into the pockets of the BT shareholders?!
Having recently moved to Snowdonia whilst working in Manchesster still - where, as a nurse, I have broadband at both home and work - I have to say that I would be glad of the ability to even receive a half decent TV picture. Broadband is fantastic, as anyone who uses it knows. The enormity of difference between the levels of technological awareness between the two areas of my life is frightening. This package and any accompanying drive to inform and integrate must also be applied to home users in rural Wales, not only businesses, so that full exploitation of the possibilities of the internet can be realised by the next generation, not just the businessmen of today. If not, then I fear many will be left so far behind that no discernable benefit will be gained. It is by putting these tools into ordinary peoples hands that development and understanding and opportunity arises..."let the children play".
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