£425m broadband project unveiled
The aim of bringing Wales' broadband up to speed has taken a leap forward after Business Minister Edwina Hart released details of a £425 million project.
Fourteen areas across the country will benefit from superfast broadband, which is being rolled out in 2013/14. The project will then be extended to all of Wales in 2014/15.
Welsh Government officials say the aim is to get better speeds to 96% of homes and businesses in the principality.
Business Minister Mrs Hart said: "The Superfast Cymru programme is set to transform the broadband landscape in Wales and to promote economic growth and sustainable jobs in Wales. It will ensure we are at the forefront of the global digital economy and help to champion Wales as a great place to live, work, invest and visit."
Mrs Hart added the Government's programme partner BT had now officially started work on the roll-out of the scheme following "detailed preparatory work". "A roll-out plan has been prepared together with the Welsh Government's economic priorities - including the enterprise zones and the Powys local growth zone," she said.
A government spokesman said the new fibre broadband would provide a "significant uplift" in performance. The 14 areas to benefit are Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Porth Talbot, Newport, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Swansea and the Vale of Glamorgan.
The plan is to ensure Wales has access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps, with ultra-fast broadband providing even faster speeds should businesses need it. The development has been welcomed by many in rural Wales - who say decent broadband speeds in the countryside have been long overdue.
Montgomery AM Russell George - whose constituency is in mid Wales - said: "This is an extremely important programme for rural mid Wales and I hope it will transform the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in Powys."
Mr George added he believed the "Speed up broadband in Montgomeryshire" campaign had played a "vital part" in providing strong evidence of the need for faster broadband. "It enabled me to lobby the business minister to have Powys prioritised," added the Welsh Conservative politician. However, Mr George said more details regarding the exact timescale was needed for the roll-out in Powys.
Funding for the project will come from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office (£59.9 million), the Welsh government (£58 million) and the European Regional Development Fund (RSDF). In addition, BT says it is investing around £220 million in "fibre broadband" in Wales with most of that going towards the project.