CHANGES to the way a broadband subsidy programme is rolled out could see Powys residents and businesses disadvantaged even further, a senior county councillor has warned.
The Gigabit Infrastructure Subsidy Programme, part of the UK Government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit programme, aims to deliver high-speed broadband to the hardest to reach areas of the UK that might otherwise not be reached by commercial rollouts.
However, concerns have been raised that hard-to-reach households and businesses in the county will be negatively impacted if potential changes to the deployment of this broadband programme are given the go-ahead.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s current intention is to designate all of Mid Wales as a Category C procurement area but this classification could potentially exclude many Broadband Alternative Network Providers installing broadband schemes in the county, leaving only the largest providers capable of installing ultrafast broadband.
In contrast, other areas of Wales will be in a different category which will provide greater competition for all providers to deliver their full-fibre networks within shorter timeframes.
Cllr Jake Berriman, Cabinet Member for a Connected Powys, said: “Access to high-speed internet is critical for the economic and social development of rural communities. The lack of adequate broadband infrastructure is a major challenge for residents and businesses in Powys, with many struggling to access basic services and opportunities.
“I believe that competition from alternative network providers will ensure that our residents can access the highest quality services at affordable prices. Having one provider deliver ultrafast, fibre-based broadband will not serve well our most hard-to-reach residents and businesses, who are already disadvantaged.
“This potential change will only exacerbate this situation, limiting choice and hindering the deployment of alternative broadband networks that could provide a lifeline to those in need.
“I fear that any changes will have long-term negative effects on the region’s economic prospects. I have written to the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP, about these concerns and have asked that she reconsiders these changes to better reflect the views and needs of our local communities.”