Shadow Minister asks why worst-affected parts of Wales are being snubbed again by Openreach roll-out

Russell George AM has highlighted the injustice of the latest phase of the Superfast Cymru roll-out for thousands of people living in mid and west Wales.

In a question today to Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters, the Shadow Minister for Business, Economy and Infrastructure asked where money allocated for the provision of broadband in Wales has gone.

Despite the Welsh Government setting aside £85 million for the second phase of Openreach’s efforts to roll out broadband across Wales, the project is expected to cost £22 million, leaving a glaring hole of £62 million not assigned to the project.

Phase two will last until 2021 and aims to reach 26,000 people, but there’s to be little change for residents of the areas left behind by the first works.

This mismanaged project will be most keenly felt again in Wales’ rural areas, as out of the counties struggling with the worst internet speeds in Wales, only 4% of properties in Pembrokeshire without fibre broadband will be aided by phase two; 9% in Carmarthenshire, 11% in Powys and 18% in Ceredigion.

Reacting to the questions, Mr Waters admitted not being aware of how the surplus money will be used, as the government is “still thinking through the implications of how to do that”.

He confessed that “there is more profit available for private companies to provide faster speeds to the people who already have broadband, than it is to reach those who have no broadband, and that is a market failure.”

Speaking outside the chamber, Mr George said:

“Businesses across rural Wales are being forgotten time and time again when it comes to their basic right to have the same connectivity as companies in Cardiff and Swansea.

“These areas neglected by the first stage of the roll-out should be being prioritised at the very least, but the Welsh Government is failing to manage the Openreach project and get the best result for all regions.

“It is regrettable that this large amount of public money is in threat of being wasted if it continues not to be correctly targeted to the areas of Wales that need it most.”