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Up to £80m investment for next stage Superfast scheme
Up to £80m is planned to be invested in the next superfast broadband scheme, to help ensure every property in Wales is able to access fast reliable broadband by 2020, Minister for Skills and Science Julie James announced yesterday.
The scheme will be a successor to the flagship Superfast Cymru project which has already brought high-speed broadband to nearly 614,000 premises in Wales and is forecast to deliver over 100,000 further premises before if closes in 2017.
Since 2012 the Welsh Government has invested over £162m of public funding in broadband infrastructure in Wales, and will invest a further £62m over the final year. An additional £12.9m from gain-share* is also planned to be invested to extend the reach of Superfast Cymru next year.
In order to reach those few premises not reached by Superfast Cymru or commercial rollout an Open Market review is due to take place in November to establish premises by premises where superfast broadband is available. This will then inform the next scheme with delivery beginning in January 2018.
The scheme will potentially be backed by £80m public funding including:
- £20m committed in the recent Welsh Government budget over the next four years
- £20m from European structural funds, subject to WEFO approval.
- £37m from gain-share as a result of take-up of superfast broadband
- £2m outstanding commitment from UK government towards new superfast broadband project.
This investment will, in turn, leverage private sector match funding to further extend broadband coverage to the hardest to reach premises across Wales by 2020.
The Minister visited Puffin Produce in Pembrokeshire to see the impact fast fibre broadband is having on their business.
Puffin Produce employs 125 people and is based in the Haven Enterprise Zone in Haverfordwest. It has a turnover of almost £16m and supplies major supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and M&S.
At the visit yesterday Julie James said:
“Superfast Cymru has been a great success, and the rollout is far from over with more premises being connected every day. It is a challenging and ambitious project, but is delivering.
“Nearly 614,000 premises now have access to high speed broadband as result of the project. To be clear, those premises would have no access at all without our intervention.
“It’s great to see the impact faster broadband makes on the ground, and Puffin Produce in Haverfordwest is an example of this. Pembrokeshire is one of the local authority areas in Wales where no commercial rollout was planned at all – now, thanks to Superfast Cymru, 50,326 premises have access to it.
“We know there is more to do. And our commitment in our Programme for Government, Taking Wales Forward, is to offer fast reliable broadband to every property in Wales. That is why we are looking at investing up to £80m in the next stage to bring faster broadband to those final hard to reach areas.
“The funding package, once more, includes European funding. We are in the early stages of the application process, but remain confident that the funding will be available, subject to WEFO approval, as a result of the UK Treasury’s guarantee to honour EU bids approved prior to exit from the EU.
“The review taking place over the next few months will inform our next steps so that we can begin the next stage in January 2018.”
Huw Thomas, Managing Director of Puffin Produce and board member of Haven Waterway Enterprise Zone said:
“Faster broadband has made a real difference to our business.
“A number of the advanced pieces of machinery that we use in our factory are remotely monitored and serviced by the companies that built them, like robots from Japan and high performance packing machines from Denmark. Our faster broadband, has allowed seamless support, minimising operational downtime and ensuring we meet our supermarket customers’ orders every day.
“Advances have also been made by our field team, who now can map the acreage of each field individually using drone technology, and interface with online software, to give more accurate estimates of crop yields and crop traceability improvements.
“It has also increased the productivity of our staff as they work offsite.”
The Haven Waterway Enterprise Zone area is now 93% complete under Superfast Cymru with work still ongoing.
The Minister also announced that the Access Broadband Cymru scheme is continuing for a further two years with an investment of £1.5m in parallel with Superfast Cymru and the successor project with equivalent funding in place to extend for a further two years beyond 2018.
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