Ministers have urged remote communities in Wales to share their experiences of getting online to help shape the delivery of a £5 billion plan to boost broadband in the most isolated parts of the UK.
Through its Project Gigabit programme the government wants at least 85 per cent of the UK to have access to an extremely fast connection of more than 1,000 megabits, or one gigabit, per second by 2025.
But it estimates that around 100,000 properties across the UK may be particularly difficult or expensive to connect using current technology, which requires building cables to them. It is considering how new cutting-edge innovations such as satellites could be used instead.
Ministers are keen to hear from residents and businesses in remote rural areas of Wales who are struggling with slow speeds to better understand their broadband needs and what they would do with a faster or more reliable connection. They are particularly keen for responses from rural businesses in the agricultural and tourism sectors.
Thanks to completed or pending government-funded projects, less than 0.3% of the country is likely to fall into the ‘very hard-to-reach’ category. These areas are mainly located in remote and isolated locations in Scotland and Wales, and some National Parks in England.
There are only a few days left to respond to the government’s consultation on connecting ‘very hard-to-reach areas’ before it closes on 11 June.
Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said:
“We want to end the digital divide and ensure even the most remote Welsh farms and villages can access the best digital infrastructure.
That’s why we’re asking those living and working in rural areas of the country to take part in our survey and help inform our approach to connecting these areas.”
Howard Davies, Chief Executive of the National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said:
“The sustainable future of rural communities is dependent, in part, on their ability to connect effectively with the wider world.
“We would actively encourage rural communities to respond to this call for evidence and have their voices heard on the benefits of broadband services and the current barriers to take-up. Working together, we can ensure rural homes and businesses keep pace in the digital age.”
The government is also seeking views from other parties such as telecoms companies and equipment suppliers on how new technologies could be used. This could lead to the government encouraging industry to use new wireless equipment, low-orbit satellites or high-altitude platforms to beam faster connections to far-flung homes and businesses.
The government has already made investments in wireless, satellite and hybrid-fibre technologies, and continues to explore emerging technologies in this area. Some of these technologies are also gigabit-capable and eligible for UK Gigabit Programme funding today.
The call for evidence can be accessed via gov.uk.