MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — People in seven rural Vermont communities will be getting better broadband internet service thanks to a series of grants through Connectivity Initiative distributed by the Department of Public Service. The Connectivity Initiative works to expand high-speed broadband service starting with unserved and underserved locations. ECFiber is getting $72,500 to bring fiber optic cable service to 31 homes and businesses in the towns of Randolph, Royalton and Stockbridge.
Consolidated Communications Inc. received $175,000 to expand broadband to 162 homes and businesses in Reading, Woodstock and Whitingham. Comcast received a grant of $300,000 to bring cable broadband service to 114 homes and businesses in Cavendish.
A major study has revealed the areas of Wales with the slowest broadband speeds. The map below shows the areas worst served by broadband connections in the lightest colours. Wales has some of the slowest speeds of any part of the UK.
Four of the 10 constituencies with the slowest download speeds in the UK are in Wales, with Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in the top position. This is based on Which? consumer-tested broadband speeds.
This is the UK table of shame, dominated by Wales and Scotland:
1. Carmarthen and Dinefwr
2. Ross, Sky and Lochaber
3. Na h-Eilanan an Iar
4. Orkney and Shetland
Argyll and Bute
6. North Herefordshire
8. Brecon and Radnorshire
9. Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
There were another three Welsh constituencies in the worst 20 for broadband speeds, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (15th) and Monmouth (19th).
How the study worked
The researchers for the British Infrastructure Group (BIG)1 also looked at the total number of broadband connections in the constituency. They they used Ofcom data at how many of them had connections of above 10 MB/s (million bits per second) or 24 MB/s.
Families who want to have a number of members watching videos, listening to music or playing games at the same time are advised they would need speeds of around 24 MB/s to avoid problems. Anything below 10 MB/s would be insufficient to reliably stream videos even for a single user. The researchers found that 6.7m UK broadband connections didn’t even reach 10 MB/s and only 40.8% achieved over 24 MB/s.
The constituencies with the least substandard broadband
(% broadband connections slower than 10 Mb/s in 2016)
- Bristol West 11.3%
- Edinburgh South 14.1%
- Edinburgh South West 14.1%
- Hampstead and Kilburn 14.5%
- Westminster North 14.7%
- Reading East 15%
- Sutton and Cheam 15.1%
- Belfast South 15.3%
- Leicester South 15.3%
The Welsh constituencies with the least substandard broadband
(% broadband connections slower than 10 Mb/s in 2016)
Swansea West 20.0%
- 2. Cardiff Central 22.6%
- 3. Cardiff West 24.5%
- 4. Swansea East 25.2%
- 5. Gower 26.3%
- =6 Newport East 26.8%
- =6 Aberavon 26.8%
- 7. Cardiff South and Penarth 28.7%
- 8. Cardiff North 28.9%
- 9. Neath 29.4%
- 10. Newport West 30.0%
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Governments must ‘stop passing the buck’
More than 50 MPs from across the party divides have come together to press for action amid concern that nearly seven million connections may not deliver the proposed minimum standard.
Dwyfor Meirionnydd Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts, one of the supporters of the report, said: “Far too many people across Wales are unable to access what Ofcom recognises as the speed required for basic tasks such as web browsing, streaming and video calling, and this digital divide undoubtedly contributes to the wider economic divide, depressing wages and living standards. The British Government and the Welsh Government must stop passing the buck and commit to connecting the whole of Wales with ultra-fast broadband.”
It is understood that less than half of all UK connections receive superfast speeds of 24 Mb/s. The MPs say it is “almost impossible” to determine how many households do not receive the speeds set out in their contracts.
Lack of access is ‘stifling the potential of local business’
Newly elected Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi
Gower Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi, another supporter of the report, said: “Access to fast broadband is a fundamental requirement for rural economies to thrive. Gower continues to lack consistent connectivity across the constituency, this includes mobile coverage.
“Gower is home to a mix of micro and small and medium businesses, from creative industries to food production. It is essential for my constituents and their businesses to be served with high quality broadband and mobile coverage.
“There are 7,408 broadband connections in Gower not meeting the basic minimum download speed. This is a matter which the UK Government and providers must address immediately.
“I fear lack of access to decent broadband is stifling the potential of local business and preventing growth within the region.”
Grant Shapps, the former Conservative chairman who chairs the group, said: “Although broadband is increasingly considered to be an essential utility, the quality of customer services has simply not caught up with demand. It is unacceptable that there are still no minimum standards in the UK telecoms sector to protect customers from protracted complaints procedures, and ensure that broadband providers are fully accountable to their customers.”
The MPs say it is “unacceptable” Ofcom has not considered automatic compensation for households that consistently get a poor service below what they are paying for.
Governments have ‘dragged their heels for too long’
Ceredigion Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake (Image: Marian Delyth)
Ceredigion Plaid Cymru MP, Ben Lake, one of the backers of the report, said: “Poor broadband speed, as well as poor mobile data signal not only impacts on residents but on businesses who are unable to reach beyond their local areas.
“Digital connectivity simply isn’t good enough in Ceredigion and in many other parts of Wales and the result is our rural communities are being cut off.
“Whilst businesses in cities such as Cardiff could feasibly rely on passing trade, rural areas have to go beyond their local high street. It is vital that we ensure businesses, and every resident in Wales, including rural Wales, have access to high-speed broadband and mobile data signal. Westminster and the Welsh Government have dragged their heels for too long – we’ve waited long enough.”
This year’s Digital Economy Act set out a so-called universal service obligation across the country, which defined a minimum broadband download speed of 10 Mb/s.
This is what the Welsh Government is doing:
The Welsh Government insists it is making progress on broadband
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “There has been tremendous progress in the availability of superfast broadband across the country thanks to the work of the Welsh Government. Over 647,000 premises can now access it in Wales as a result of the Welsh Government’s Superfast Cymru programme.
“The latest Ofcom report shows that Wales has the highest availability of superfast broadband among the devolved nations, largely thanks to the Superfast Cymru programme, with eight out of 10 premises with access. This compares with just over half in 2014.
“Areas such as Gwynedd, Conwy and Anglesey would have no access to superfast broadband without the intervention of Superfast Cymru. Now, for example, over 49,000 premises in Gwynedd can access it…
“We know there is more to do to reach the final premises including those not part of the Superfast Cymru rollout, and we are already looking at how to do this. We’ve recently announced potential funding of ?80m to reach the small percentage of premises not part of the Superfast Cymru project or commercial rollout.
“Once superfast broadband has been made available people will not receive it automatically. If they wish to receive it they will need to contact their internet service provider in order to change their package so that they can receive the faster speeds.
“Our Access Broadband Cymru scheme can also offer assistance to those currently not able to access superfast broadband by providing grant aid to receive it through other technologies.”
See how your constituency ranks for high speed internet access
(% broadband connections slower than 10 Mb/s in 2016)
- 1. Carmarthen East and Dinefwr 58.2%
- 2. Montgomeryshire 58.0%
- 3. Ceredigion 55.1%
Dwyfor Meirionnydd 50.9%
- 5. Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire 49.8%
- 6. Monmouth 49.1%
- 7. Brecon and Radnorshire 48.9%
- 8. Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney 47.3%
- 9. Aberconwy 44.3%
- 10. Islwyn 44.2%
- 11. Preseli Pembrokeshire 44.1%
- 12. Clwyd South 43.8%
- 14. Alyn and Deeside 43.1%
- 15. Delyn 42.8%
- 16. Wrexham 42.0%
- 17. Rhondda 41.6%
- =18. Clwyd West 41.2%
- =18. Torfaen 41.2%
- 19. Cynon Valley 40.9%
- 20. Anglesey 40.5%
- 22. Llanelli 39.8%
- 23. Ogmore 38.9%
- 24. Pontypridd 37.4%
- 25. Arfon 35.9%
- =26. Blaenau Gwent 32.6%
- =26. Vale of Glamorgan 32.6%
- 27. Vale of Clwyd 32.1%
- 28. Newport West 30.0%
- 30. Cardiff North 28.9%
- 31. Cardiff South and Penarth 28.7%
- =32. Aberavon 26.8%
- =32. Newport East 26.8%
- 33. Gower 26.3%
- 34. Swansea East 25.2%
- 35. Cardiff West 24.5%
- 36. Cardiff Central 22.6%
Swansea West 20.0%
- ^ http://www.britishinfrastructuregroup.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Broadbad-2.0-Final-2.pdf (www.britishinfrastructuregroup.uk)
Never mind Brexit, the two Welsh cities of Swansea and Cardiff are putting their tech credentials on the table. Our Celtic cousins in Wales are experiencing something of a tech jobs boom, with 103 new digital start-ups adding to the 117,470 tech workers in Swansea and Cardiff in the past year. Recent arrivals include AI start-up Amplyfi, which received a ?400,000 unsecured loan from the Welsh government.
‘Last year, ?4.6bn (68pc) of the UK’s tech investment was spent in regions outside the capital’
– RUTH JACOBS
The traditional coal and steel industries of Wales were once the bedrock of the Welsh economy. But now, according to Ruth Jacobs, managing director of Randstad business solutions, Cardiff and Swansea are two of the UK’s fastest-growing tech cities, due to investment in both graduate opportunities and the digital transformation of the country as a whole. Digital investment in the UK’s tech industry was estimated at ?6.8bn in 2016.
Putting the valleys in Silicon Valley
In a recent review of Swansea and Cardiff by Randstad1, it was noted that the investment in the region has a symbiotic relationship with the education sector, with input from four major universities: Cardiff University, the University of South Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University and Swansea University. Jacobs said the universities provide a steady flow of IT-literate graduates to support the growing industry requirements. Swansea University was ranked 16th in the UK for graduate employment in the recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The digital staff requirements2 in the tech sector are growing overall across the UK, adding to the existing 1.64m tech jobs. Swansea and Cardiff are on track to becoming the leading tech employees, rivalling nearby Bristol.
“Last year, ?4.6bn (68pc) of the UK’s tech investment was spent in regions outside the capital,” Jacobs said.
“Cardiff and Swansea have 17,470 tech jobs, and last year recorded 103 new tech and digital start-ups, such as Amplyfi, using artificial intelligence for data mining.”
In terms of infrastructure, broadband connectivity across Wales is being bolstered as part of a Welsh government scheme to ensure ‘super-fast’ broadband, which will support investments not only in the cities but also across the south-east region. Development Bank of Wales is planning to support Welsh businesses with ?1bn funding and unique investment projects such as the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult3 in Cardiff, launched in 2016. This investment aims to fund innovative regional projects.
On the strength of the Swansea University IT programme, Swansea Bay City Region has secured a ?500m deal to turn the area into a digital super-hub. In terms of start-ups, TechHub Swansea4 provides office space for tech entrepreneurs with networking and lunch-and-learn events as part of the working landscape. Cardiff has similar innovation support, with Tramshed Tech 5supporting its co-working community. Additionally, the ease of booking desk space at the Indycube6 tech hub, available across Wales, nurtures the community.
The Alacrity Foundation7, Cardiff Start8 and the launch of Innovation Point9‘s Welsh technology accelerator programme – named ‘Digital Dozen’ – are three programmes all aimed at supporting tech growth.
“Swansea and Cardiff have great road and rail links to both London and Bristol,” Jacobs said.
“Swansea is three hours by train from London, and Cardiff just over two hours. As a lifestyle choice, both cities are a 30-minute drive from areas of outstanding national beauty like the Gower Peninsula and the Brecon Beacons.
“The house prices are also under the UK average, at ?185,639,” she added.
- ^ Randstad (www.randstad.co.uk)
- ^ digital staff requirements (www.randstad.co.uk)
- ^ Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult (csa.catapult.org.uk)
- ^ TechHub Swansea (swansea.techhub.com)
- ^ Tramshed Tech (tramshedtech.net)
- ^ Indycube (indycube.cymru)
- ^ The Alacrity Foundation (www.alacrityfoundation.co.uk)
- ^ Cardiff Start (cardiffstart.com)
- ^ Innovation Point (www.innovationpoint.uk)