In their debate this week, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for an end to internet and mobile 'not spots' in Wales. The debate coincides with the launch of the new 'Access Broadband Cymru' scheme which aims to support Superfast Cymru in rolling out broadband across Wales. The Welsh Lib Dems will be urging the Welsh Government to learn from the mistakes of past schemes, to ensure Wales no longer lags behind when it comes to accessing a decent mobile and broadband service.
Previous Welsh Government broadband schemes have proven to be inadequate for businesses due to the slow speed of the broadband provided, lack of advertising and a failure to help those in the most hard to reach areas. The Welsh Liberal Democrats will be highlighting some constructive ways to improve the availability of broadband and mobile services in the future. They will also be calling for the Welsh Government to investigate recent problems with mobile signal in rural areas and to work with network providers to ensure these issues are addressed and coverage is maximised across Wales.
South Wales West Liberal Democrats Assembly Member, Peter Black said:
"It is a sad fact that Wales has the largest proportion of premises in potential not-spots and the lowest availability of superfast broadband services. Previous schemes by the Welsh Labour Government simply haven't been up to scratch and Wales has languished at the bottom of league tables when it comes to broadband access.
"Superfast broadband availability across Wales is only 37%. This is compared to a national average of 95% in Northern Ireland. Technology moves fast and the difference between those who have broadband and those who don't is getting wider and wider.
"Broadband is key to everyday business activities, from contacting customers, ordering supplies, sourcing new tariffs for energy and services or managing finances. Inadequate internet and mobile connections mean that many businesses in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend may be getting left behind, missing out on the benefits of being able to compete in new and wider markets.
"Fuel poverty is a massive issue in many rural communities. Yet many rural households are less likely to take up schemes that reduce fuel costs, such as cheaper tariffs or energy efficiency schemes, due to a lack of broadband access. Farming businesses and rural communities face significant problems as more and more services and transactions move online.
"It's completely unacceptable that in this day and age many people in Wales still can't use their mobile phone due to a lack of signal, or access a decent broadband connection. The Welsh Labour Government needs to learn from the mistakes of its previous schemes and ensure that even those in the most hard to reach areas have access to a decent internet and mobile service so that 'not spots' finally become a thing of the past."
- Wales has the largest proportion of premises in potential not-spots, and the lowest availability of superfast broadband services in the UK.
- According to the Ofcom Infrastructure Report 2012 , superfast broadband availability across Wales is only 37%. This is compared to a national average of 95% in Northern Ireland.
- It is estimated that 4% of premises will be too inaccessible to provide next generation broadband cost-effectively through Superfast Cymru.
- A recent Estyn report highlighted that a poor broadband connection hinders class work and slow speeds make internet searches for a whole class difficult.
- The Ofcom Infrastructure Report 2012 highlights that geographic coverage of mobile networks in Wales is weak: 14.3% have no 2G signal from any operator, 22.1% have no 3G signal from any operator.
- Internet access causes significant problems for many farming businesses and rural communities as more and more services and transactions move online.