Fay Jones MP writes for the Brecon and Radnor Express
One of the most fantastic bits of forward thinking that I’ve seen on farm is a fully autonomous vending machine, offering fantastic minced beef, pork chops and shoulders of lamb – all with contactless payments. This wasn’t in Tokyo or Sydney – but just outside of Whitton in north east Radnorshire. It just goes to show what can be achieved with savvy farmers and fast broadband.
Reliable broadband is the future of our way of life. Farms can become more efficient, holiday homes can offer more to their guests and businesses can expand and thrive – creating the jobs that our young people need to stay in this part of the world. But our amazing landscapes and beautiful countryside often presents problems for broadband infrastructure and it’s something I’ve been working to improve for some time. The biggest hurdle is often the cost of installation and so, to prevent rural homes and businesses from losing out, the UK and Welsh Governments have stumped up cash to reduce the set up costs on households and businesses.
However, that came to a halt on Thursday last week when the Welsh Government decided to pull its funding – almost overnight, meaning that ongoing schemes are now at risk. The only losers here are rural communities like ours. I’m afraid the Welsh Government has been showing some favouritism on broadband. It has ploughed tens of millions of pounds into internet for the Valleys, but when the time came to connect rural areas – it suddenly pleads poverty. If you ask Labour councilors why, when they knock your doors in the coming weeks, they’ll claim ‘this is not a devolved responsibility’…But they didn’t seem to worry about that when connecting urban South Wales to high speed broadband.
To avoid rural communities being isolated, or individuals having to dig deep to find the money, I raised this with the Prime Minister on the floor of the House of Commons last week. The PM agreed that this was a backwards step and he would ask the Secretary of State for Wales to see what more could be done to fill the gap. It’s absolutely critical that we find a way forward to connect rural areas – even people just a mile outside of Brecon struggle to get online.
Enough is enough. I’ll be making sure that where the Welsh Government lets us down, the UK Government steps up.