The Welsh Assembly announced £115m in funding for broadband in July, which it said is the biggest government investment in broadband in the UK.
Andrew Davies, eMinister in the Welsh Assembly government said: “There are big developments and big opportunities for broadband in wales. IT is key to our change programme. Its about hard outcomes and delivery.
‘For us broadband is a means to an end and not an end in its own right. We want to be a broadband content consumer and producer. We need both of these to happen to see real social and economic benefits.’
He said companies such as General Dynamics are investing in Wales largely because of the broadband infrastructure.
The Welsh Assembly plans to increase broadband availability by 30% above what the market can deliver. ‘That is 300,000 homes and 67,000 businesses that would have been left behind,’ said Davies. It will also provide fibre into key business parks.
Davies said by March 2003, 47% of schools will have broadband connections – 2Mbps for primary and 8Mbps for secondary. Two-thirds of Welsh GPs are online at 256kbps, he said and added: ‘Cardiff has one of the fastest take-ups of ADSL in the country.’
The Broadband in Wales campaign has been working on raising awareness with a series of roadshows. It is offering a subsidy of £1,500 to businesses that cannot get ADSL and have to use satellite instead, which brings the cost of satellite down to around the same as broadband.
Although the scheme was only launched seven weeks ago, 60 companies have already taken advantage, with 600 information packs sent out.
Keith Todd, chairman of the Broadband Stakeholder Group said: ‘Devolved government plays a central role. This is a market lead revolution, but leadership in the local regions will ensure there is widespread coverage by 2005.’
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