Ensuring rural areas of Wales benefit from our broadband roll-out is one of my key priorities. The UK Government have supported investment in broadband across rural Wales, including £14.2 million in Powys and £13.9 million in Gwynedd. The Secretary of State recently had positive discussions with the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and the Minister for Science and Skills on future work to roll out broadband in Wales.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree with me that superfast broadband is a key driver for successful diversification in remote rural economies, and does he agree that it is time BT Openreach raised its game?
I am sure the mailbox of every MP would highlight the fact that it is time for BT Openreach to raise its game. On the importance of broadband to rural economic development, I can only agree fully with my hon. Friend. In my constituency of Aberconwy we have a call centre in Llanrwst, which is only in place as a result of the broadband roll-out encouraged by this Government’s funding.
In a Twitter message to me, the director of BT in Wales said that the
“vast majority of rural Wales, including Arfon, can already access superfast broadband”.
Does the Minister agree with her?
The “vast majority” is perhaps overstating the case, but the improvement over recent months has been spectacular, with rates of 90%-plus in many rural counties. There is still more work to be done, but in terms of rural broadband we are going in the right direction in Wales and the UK.
The main superfast broadband line passes the community of Crymlyn in my constituency, literally at the bottom of the people’s gardens. Many of these people run businesses from home and need to access substantial documents, but the download speed in Crymlyn would be an embarrassment even in the previous century. When will the Minister, or his Labour confederates in Cardiff, actually do something to remove this huge barrier to prosperity and economic growth?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the investment in his own constituency, which is approaching £12 million. There are still issues in relation to broadband roll-out in Wales, but sometimes we have to recognise that what has been achieved is tremendous. We are slightly ahead of the situation in England, which is something we should all applaud. However, I make no bones about the fact that more and faster broadband connectivity in Wales is crucial. The Wales Office will carry on pressurising BT Openreach to ensure that that is achieved sooner rather than later.