In the slow lane

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211998
Politicians believe Westminster should act

Senior Conservative politicians in Wales have condemned the slow broadband speeds in parts of the country and warned that action may be taken by the Tory-led UK Government, it has emerged.

One told The Eye:  “This is ridiculous.

“We have to do something about it at the Westminster level.”

Grant Shapps wants compensation for families

The British Infrastructure Group of MPs, led by former Tory party chairman Grant Shapps, has called on the communications regulator Ofcom to compensate families who do not get the internet speeds they pay for.

Wales has seven of the 20 worst-performing areas in Britain, and Scotland has eight.

Carmarthenshire may be beautiful but broadband connection is awful

The MP’s report, entitled ‘Broadband 2.0’, which is backed by a group of 57 cross-party MPs, found as many as 6.7 million UK broadband connections may not be receiving download speeds above the proposed minimum download speeds of 10 megabits per second.

Less than half of all UK connections are thought not to receive superfast speeds of 24 Mb/s, according to the group’s research.

Parts of rural Wales are the worst in the UK for broadband connection

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr is the fifth worst constituency of Britain with the percentage of homes failing to reach the UK Government’s proposed minimum standard internet connections at 58.2.

This area is closely followed by Montgomeryshire, with 58 per cent.

Ceredigion has 55.1 per cent of homes failing to reach the standard.

Merthyr Tydfil is not much better

Dwyfor has 50.9 per cent just ahead in the slow league table of Brecon and Radnorshire at 48.9 per cent.

The Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency has 47.3 per cent.

Mr Shapps said: “It is unacceptable that there are still no minimum standards in the UK telecoms sector to protect customers from protracted complaints procedures, and ensure that broadband providers are fully accountable to their customers”.

The Welsh Government cannot escape controversy either

Yet the Labour Welsh Government (WG) has also been at the centre of controversy over broadband in Wales.

It admitted to only three complaints about the service, but critics believe there must have been many more.

In a request under the Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) officials told a furious user, there was just one complaint about the service in Carmarthenshire, one objection from Wrexham and one dissatisfied customer in Gwynedd.

Complainant refused details

The revelation is set against a backdrop of growing anger about missed targets, refused information and mistakes over the contentious programme to rollout internet broadband across Wales, reported by The Eye. 

The internet user who demanded details, was denied more information because officials claimed her request was not strictly accurate.

She was told:  “Despite repeated attempts to provide advice and assistance, we have been unable to clarify exactly what information you are seeking.

“Accordingly, we are unable to take your request any further.”

Rural areas of Wales are hard to reach but users may not have complained, according to the Welsh Government

The WG has already been rapped over the knuckles for breaking the law in not properly divulging information during the extraordinary row about the accuracy of the request.

At one point officials queried the definition of the word ‘internet’ in Wales.

But there have been widespread protests at the poor internet service in much of Wales, and the WG stands accused of using certain methods to hide crucial information.

The law has been broken

The revelation of how the WG deals with complaints about the internet, comes hard on the heels of the disclosure that a target of June to roll out high-speed broadband across Wales had been missed.

Officials would not offer crucial information, before a storm over the missed target, and we showed how a senior official in the WG had admitted critical facts about the broadband rollout were kept hidden.

The project to conduct the rollout, Superfast Cymru, was funded through the Welsh and UK Governments, the European Union as well as BT, and it was meant to connect to the internet 655,000 homes and offices – or 96% of premises in Wales.

Angry Welsh Assembly members said missing the target would damage Wales

But the original deadline has been missed and Welsh Assembly members were hugely critical of the effect on Wales.

One said it had had damaging consequences (for Wales).

Perhaps not as damaging as being ranked among the worst parts of the UK for broadband connection.

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The Eye is edited by Phil Parry. Phil is a former BBC news and current affairs reporter. He is winner of the BT Wales award for journalist of the year, BT Wales TV reporter of the year and radio reporter of the year.

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