BT today announced it had won the tender to roll out superfast broadband across Wales.
The deal aims to provide 96% of the country with connections of up to 80Mbps by 2015, helping reach the UK’s government’s goal of having the best broadband in Europe within three years.
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Even faster speeds of 330Mbps will be available in some areas, which BT hopes will appeal to the thousands of small businesses across the country.
The Welsh Government will put £58m towards the project, along with a further £57m from the UK’s government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme and £90m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
BT would not reveal exactly how much it was investing in the project, but a spokesman told us roughly two-thirds of the £220m it was putting into Wales would be specifically for the roll-out, rather than more commercially viable installations that the rest will fund.
The telecoms giant will also create 50 new jobs and 100 apprenticeships to work on the scheme, as well as offer 900 young people a week of work experience.
“Our partnership with BT will see to it that Wales does more than simply catch up with our neighbours; we intend to catch up, overtake and then set the pace that others will strive to match,” said Carwyn Jones, first minister of Wales.
“The project will transform the broadband landscape across Wales and ensure that local businesses can become global businesses. It will ensure that firms remain in Wales and it will also attract a more diverse range of high-growth, high-value companies to the country across all our key sectors, from tourism to high-end manufacturing.”
The project has won the support of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), but vice-president of the organisation, Ross Murray, called on the government to ensure the roll-out is focused on those most in need.
“It is such a vital service for the rural economy, but the lack of broadband in rural Wales puts businesses at a competitive disadvantage,” he said. "Since the Welsh Government first announced its plan to roll out superfast broadband last year, we have waited and waited for further information, so a 2015 confirmation is very welcome.
“The priority now is for the government and BT to address the areas in Wales that currently receive no broadband or very slow speeds. The government must ensure that BT does not simply increase the speeds of the 10% to 15% who already have superfast broadband, but concentrates on those households and businesses that have suffered from poor broadband for the past 10 years.”
Murray also called for the BT contract to include penalties for missing any deadlines or providing any sub-standard connections, saying the firm should be on “performance-related pay”.
Work on the roll-out will begin once the scheme has received approval from the European Commission.