A former head of BT in Wales has said more needs to be done to make people aware of the benefits of superfast broadband.
A total of £425 million is being spent on the Superfast Cymru project which aims to connect 96 per cent of the country to superfast fibre-based broadband. So far, 100,000 homes and businesses have been connected to next-gen broadband.
John Davies, who now chairs the Welsh advisory committee for Ofcom, argues that more need to be spent on promoting the benefits of superfast broadband if take-up is to increase.
Currently around 19 per cent of connected areas are buying superfast broadband, a figure which Davies argues needs to change. Speaking to the BBC, Davies said:
“For small and medium sized businesses, it gives them an opportunity to compete on equal terms with businesses elsewhere in the UK and elsewhere in the world, and on the back of that they should be able to cut their costs and increase their revenues.”
“The question is, if more is done on the stimulation side, can those benefits come through faster?”
We’ve seen examples first hand of how superfast broadband can transform a company’s prospects during a visit to the Superfast Cornwall project and closer to home when we stumped up for superfast broadband ourselves.
But as researchers PointTopic have argued, availability of superfast broadband is one thing; telling people it’s there and getting them to buy it is something else.
It’s a lesson that the architects of failed project Digital Region, not to mention South Yorkshire taxpayers, have come to rue following the folding of their £150 million superfast venture. Only 3,000 customers signed up – only 97,000 short of how many subscribers were actually needed to make the project sustainable.
Superfast Cymru: They won’t come if they don’t know it’s there
According to Davies, £300,000 of the £425 million has been spent on marketing the benefits of superfast broadband to Welsh residents and businesses. This, he argues, needs to be increased if the project, backed by public money, is to deliver benefits to everyone.
Of the £425 million, the Welsh Government has contributed £58 million, backed by £57 million from the UK Government’s BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) pot. A further £90 million comes from the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund). BT is contributing £220 million to the project.
The Welsh Government says that it plans to increase promotional activity in the near future, adding that current take up figures are in line with expectations. Currently the Superfast Cymru site and the official Twitter account is the limit of the government’s promotional activities.
Just don’t confuse the official site with this snarky parody version.
As well as Superfast Cymru, the Welsh Government has re-launched its Access Broadband Cymru scheme for those living in areas not covered by the BT-backed project and is looking into how the Fibrespeed network in north Wales could be used to extend superfast coverage.
Image: Elliot Brown/Flickr