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Superfast broadband rollout ‘fundamental’ to Wales’ digital future

Thursday, May 28th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The rollout of superfast broadband in Wales is making “reasonable progress”, the country’s Auditor General has said.

Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas, said the Welsh Government’s procurement and management of the Superfast Cymru project has been generally effective.

The project aims to provide access for around 700,000 premises in Wales not covered by planned commercial rollouts and is supported by up to £205m in public funding.

A report from Mr Thomas, who heads up public sector watchdog the Wales Audit Office, said that despite initial weaknesses in the programme and project management, the Welsh Government now has clear arrangements in place.

According to the report, which focuses on various aspects of the Superfast Cymru agreement and its delivery, the Welsh Government is now expecting all business and residential premises to be able to access next generation broadband services by the end of 2016.

Mr Thomas said: “I am pleased to see that the Superfast Cymru project is making reasonable progress.

“Delivering this project on time is fundamental to the successful achievement of the Welsh Government’s Digital Wales initiative.

“I however encourage the government to do more to communicate the rollout of access to next generation broadband to the wider public and to promote the benefits available.”

Overall coverage targets

Just over half of the target premises got access to next generation broadband by the end of 2014, the report said.

And while many difficult-to-connect premises remain, improvements since 2014 have given confidence that overall coverage targets will be met.

The report acknowledged that some local authorities, businesses and residents have not been satisfied with communication about the Superfast Cymru rollout.

It also noted that while the take-up of superfast broadband is rising, there are no take-up targets in place.

The Superfast Cymru contract has already achieved most of the expected benefits related to jobs, apprenticeships and work experience opportunities, the report said.

It added that while arrangements to support and measure the wider benefits from public investment in digital infrastructure have been weak, the Welsh Government is developing a national project for the exploitation of next generation broadband by businesses and a plan for public sector exploitation.

The Auditor General’s report makes a number of recommendations, including an improvement in communication about local rollouts of Superfast Cymru.

They also include ensuring that 40% of premises in the intervention area are capable of receiving download speeds of 100Mbps or more; and monitoring and supporting the take-up of next generation broadband.

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