The Welsh Assembly and BT have announced a deal which would provide high-speed, fibre-optic internet to over 90% of Welsh homes. We ask what this could mean for the United Kingdom as a whole.
As the world becomes more and more reliant upon the internet for work, leisure and essential services, the need for a reliable, trustworthy connection increases exponentially. Wales is no exception. Cardiff and Newport have become hugely popular business-hubs, and both Bangor and Aberystwyth are rapidly-expanding University-towns. However, whether the motivation is academic or business-related, Wales has just as much call for high-speed internet as the rest of the country. With the plans involving download speeds of over 80Mbps, for over 96% of the population, and additional services running to 330Mbps at an additional cost, this is a service which is definitely not without its merits.
The deal struck by the Welsh Assembly is set to run a total cost of around £425million, of which Wales’ government will pay £58million. The rest will be paid through various government communications-bodies, with a hefty £220million coming from BT itself. There were some concerns voiced amongst the public; that the £58million fee would come out of taxpayers’ money, which might otherwise benefit essential services such as the country’s education system. However, the deal will also benefit local economies struggling due to the current economic pressures; creating over 50 full-time jobs, and over one-hundred apprenticeships. Several hundred existing jobs in the Welsh telecoms industry are set to be spared a previously-planned curtailing, too.
Currently, according to Ofcom, over 20% of Welsh homes receive download speeds of below 2Mbps. Welsh authorities have stated that they aim to reduce this number to below 1% by the time the plans are completed. This mirrors a similar scheme in Northern Ireland, which has seen around 96% of households covered. There are also talks of running fibre-optic connections in Scotland, where the coverage is only 40%. If the plans in Wales go ahead, UK government plans to extend high-speed fibre-optic connections to over 90% of the population will be fulfilled.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced plans to extend a free Wi-Fi network across the capital, in the run-up to the Olympic Games. In the next ten years, it is likely that this scheme will be adopted elsewhere in the country. Already, the United Kingdom is one of the most connected-countries on Earth. As we ponder the implications of this news, Wales soars ahead of most of the Western-World, with some of the fastest internet speeds that are commercially available.