£425m super-fast broadband 'is on track'


Charlie Croasdale

A DEPUTY minister has defended a broadband scheme which is subject to an inquiry by a public spending watchdog.

The Welsh Government’s £425 million super-fast broadband scheme, which is aiming to roll out speedy internet connections across Wales, has come under fire in recent weeks.

Huw Vaughan Thomas, of the Wales Audit Office, has announced he will examine whether the Welsh Government’s strategy is likely to deliver its intended benefits set out at the start of the project in January 2013.

But Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology Ken Skates AM said the scheme, which he called an “enonormous logistical undertaking”, remained “on track”.

Earlier this month in a survey by online comparison site uSwitch.com, Pentre, near Chirk, was identified as having one of the slowest broadband speeds in Wales.

Pentre resident and Chirk town councillor Barbara Humphreys said when she checked her broadband last week the speed was just 0.7 Mbps.

In contrast, just a few miles away in Pen y Graig Road, Brymbo, internet users have the luxury of the fastest broadband speeds in Wales.

Mr Skates said the Chirk ward, and in particular the people of Pentre, would be able to access super-fast internet by March 2015.

Mr Skates said: “This is the largest programme across the whole of Europe in terms of getting super-fast out to the people Wales.

“We set out to get 96 per cent of the country on super-fast by spring 2016 and we’re on track.

“The programme requires 17,500 kilometres of fibre optic cable to be laid, which, if stretched out, could cover the distance of Wrexham to Sydney – so this is an enormous logistical undertaking.

“I appreciate the concerns of the people of Chirk but I’d call for patience.

“By March 2015 the whole of Chirk will have super-fast speeds which will be far more powerful than those over the English border.

“Any rural properties not included in the four per cent can access super-fast broadband through the Access Broadband Cymru scheme – for which we have funding set aside.

“I feel their frustrations but ask people to bear with us because super-fast broadband is a solution.”

Mr Skates said there were areas across Wrexham where super-fast was now operational, and urged residents who are not receiving it to contact their internet provider.

“Brymbo has the fastest street in Wales for broadband, but the rest of the ward is also super-fast and all you need to do is contact your provider to hook you up,” he added.

“Wrexham town is also connected as we have prioritised areas of business enterprise for economic growth.”

Mr Skates added Wrexham Industrial Estate was yet to receive super-fast as they have previously benefited from a fibre speed broadband scheme.

However, he did add businesses on the industrial estate would soon be consulted by the Welsh Government over the possibility of introducing super-fast broadband to the area.

For a full list of when super-fast broadband Cymru will be installed to all towns and villages in the area, visit www.superfast-cymru.com/where-and-when.

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