Wales broadband support scheme to be extended

Wires around fibre optic cables
Image caption Communities with 'slow' broadband will be able to apply for Welsh Government grants to improve it

A scheme to help rural communities tackle broadband "notspots" in Wales is to be extended.

The Welsh Government's broadband improvement project offers up to £1,000 for people who only have a dial-up-speed connection to buy an alternative.

The £2m scheme will now be rolled out to areas where connectivity is better but still less than 2Mbps, BBC Wales' Eye on Wales has learnt.

The lack of fast internet access in rural areas has been criticised.

The Welsh Government has pledged to bring 'next-generation' fibre optic broadband connections to every business in Wales by 2016, and to every home by 2020.

The Broadband Support Scheme currently allows those in areas where broadband connection speeds are less than 512Kbps, to access funding for satellite or wireless alternatives.

Until June, the scheme had approved 800 applications, unlocking £600,000 in grants from the original £2m.

Eye on Wales understands that an announcement on Monday will extend the scheme to areas where connectivity is less than 2Mbps.

It will be welcomed by people like John Snowden from Cilgerran in north Pembrokeshire.

He found the limit of 512Kbps hit his efforts to sign up enough people to make the favoured wireless solution viable.

Wireless broadband

"There are some in the village that will be marginally over the top of 512Kbps and may not qualify for the money, which is a real handicap because we need a reasonable number of people to come on to the scheme to make it worth while," he said.

"But as it stands at the moment if they get more than 512Kbps then they will not qualify for the grant money for the installation, so they'll have to spend up to £1,000 themselves for the installation. That's a real drawback."

Monday's announcement will open the door for Cilgerran and other communities to follow the example of Treleddyd Fawr on the St David's peninsula in Pembrokeshire.

In January it pooled its grants to buy in wireless broadband from Neyland-based firm, TFL, delivering download speeds up to 10Mbps for £20 a month.

TFL's clients around Treleddyd Fawr now include the RNLI lifeboat station at nearby St Justinians, Shalom House hospice in St David's, and artist Jackie Morris.

'Time was wasted'

She said: "It was affecting my business. I struggled along as best I could on a dial-up connection but I can do so much more now."

"As an artist you have to blog, you have to have Facebook, you have to get your work out to as many people as possible."

"I was finding that more and more of my time was spent trying to up-load photos. You'd get half-way through then the dial-up connection dropped."

"So much time was wasted trying to work on the internet, less time at the drawing board, which is where I like to be most."

Eye on Wales is broadcast at 1300 BST on Sunday 3 July on BBC Radio Wales.

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