Saturday 19 July 2008

The hots and the nots

Whilst much of the UK is looking forward to the creation of more and more broadband hotspots, extending the usability of boadband services, here in rural Wales we are more concerned about dealing with the notspots – the areas where no service at all is available. The problem is a widespread one, and there is a particular problem in my own village of Llanpumsaint, extending down to Bronwydd as well, where hundreds of people are without the service.

The One Wales Government is working to resolve the issues, and the Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, visited the area himself this week to hear the concerns at first hand. Despite the short notice, and the fact that the meeting was held in an afternoon rather than an evening, the hall was packed, and residents made their frustrations very clear.

Given the numbers of people across the whole of Wales who are suffering from these problems, and the cost of putting them right, it’s hardly surprising that expectations are not being met if the delivery of the service is dependent on Government funding.

That’s an important ‘if’, however. I am not going to argue against the government stepping in and sorting the issue – of course not. We want action, and we want it now, and I'm pleased that Ieuan is working to address the problem. But having spoken to other broadband suppliers locally, who make commercial decisions about whether to invest in new capacity or not, and who have been supplying broadband to some of the people who BT have not helped, there is surely a valid question to be asked about the use of government funding.

In the short term, it seems we have no option but to ask the government to pay BT to provide a service. But shouldn’t a company which is making billions of pounds’ profit each year be expected to fund this sort of investment itself, rather than receive government subsidies? There is a ‘public service obligation’ on BT to provide telephone services; in an age where broadband should be the norm, shouldn’t we extend the legislation to make provision of a full service part of that obligation?

1 comment:

Rhetoric Innes said...

John, In Cwmfelin Mynach we had
broadband installed last year. Pity that the whole county does not benefit from this as yet.