Broadband boost to wire country

The UK government is to gift an extra £2.7m into Wales to help roll out high-speed internet services.

The faster connections, called broadband, enable speeds around 10 times faster than conventional modem connections, but take-up has been slow across the UK, and particularly in Wales.

The money, outlined by UK E-commerce Minister Douglas Alexander, will go to the Welsh Development Agency to kick-start business and consumer interest.

It is part of a £30.1m Department of Trade and Industry initiative to help pull Britain into the broadband age.

When accessed by modems at home, the internet is often characterised by long waits while information downloads across data and phone networks.

Broadband technology, however, allows much more data to be transferred at higher speeds, letting rich multi-media content, such as images and movie clips, flow into – and out of – homes and offices.

Slow take-up

Take-up of information and communications technology in Wales already lags far behind the rest of the UK.

Across the UK, just 1% of households have high-speed internet access and there are fears the UK could miss out on the advantages.

A report commissioned by the WDA in July also found that demand for broadband access in Wales is the lowest in Britain.

But, with online services becoming increasingly enriched by broadband, an acceleration of take-up is crucial.

The DTI money is being handed out according to a regional formula based on the number of residents who do not yet have affordable access to broadband.

Broadband Britain

Announcing the £2.7m boost, E-commerce Minister Mr Alexander said: “Broadband services will bring benefits to businesses and consumers alike and we are working to extend these services in every part of the UK.

“Today’s announcement marks the latest step as government, along with industry, face the challenge of building Broadband Britain.”

He said the WDA will be asked to put forward innovative plans for the new funds, with a view to increasing the use of high-speed connectivity by businesses and consumers.

Schemes could include pilot demonstration projects, producing more broadband-specific content and identifying public bodies which could pool broadband services.

The announcement was timed to coincide with E-business Week, during which a number of e-commerce-related events have been taking place around Wales.

The promised £2.7m will not see Wales surge into the lead in the digital world, but it will held target projects get on their feet.