Poor broadband harms economy - Welsh affairs committee

The economy of Wales is being damaged by poor broadband provision and preventing investment in rural Wales, say MPs.

The Welsh affairs committee wants the Welsh and UK governments to join forces to deliver better internet access.

The committee chair, Monmouth MP David Davies, said it was hard to believe there are still some areas in Wales with no connection at all.

The Wales Office says both governments have invested heavily in services.

"It is impossible to see how businesses or the economy can develop in these areas," said Mr Davies.

In a report released on Monday the committee said the UK and Welsh governments must work together to improve connectivity speeds in Wales in line with the rest of the country as a matter of urgency.

It said that historically the availability of broadband has been "consistently lower" in Wales than the rest of the UK.

Although that gap has narrowed in recent years latest figures show the difference between Wales and the UK has widened again.

In rural Wales the existence of broadband "notspots and slowspots has hindered the operations of existing businesses and deterred new businesses from choosing to locate there to the cost of the local economy," says the report.

Mr Davies said: "Access to fast internet connection is essential to businesses and the economy in Wales.

'Extremely ambitious targets'

"Both governments have extremely ambitious targets for broadband provision and there is little time left to meet them."

An agreement to provide almost all homes and businesses with quicker broadband speeds will put Wales in the "fast lane," First Minister Carwyn Jones has said.

In July, the Welsh government signed a deal with BT to upgrade the network for 96% of properties by 2015 in a £425m deal.

A Wales Office spokesperson said: "The issue of broadband coverage in Wales is well known and one that we are seeking to address in collaboration with the Welsh government.

"The £425m investment is testament to how Wales' two governments can work together, with £205m of the costs coming from the UK and Welsh governments and EU structural funds, and the rest from BT who are carrying out the work.

"Cardiff has also been selected to become one of the first super connected cities with funding of up to £12m being provided, with Swansea and Newport eligible to bid in the second wave of funding announced earlier this year.

"We have also committed to improving mobile phone coverage in Wales, with the recent Budget allocating £150m across the UK, which will include the blackspot on A470 (T) between Llandudno and Cardiff.

"We continue to seek to work in collaboration with the Welsh government on addressing these issues."

Iestyn Davies, from the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales said there were "notspots, and not-so-quick spots across Wales".

"Everybody believes we need a better broadband but it's taken a long time to put that in as a facility in the hands of business," he said.

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