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BT secures Welsh broadband deal

£13m pays for final 35 exchanges to get DSL

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Millions of pounds are to be spent converting the last 35 BT exchanges in Wales to broadband in a move to deliver blanket broadband coverage throughout the Principality.

The Welsh Assembly has just inked a deal with BT to convert the last exchanges in Wales are to be wired for broadband - so a further 10,000 homes and business can hook up to high speed net access. These exchanges, not already converted to DSL because they were deemed not to be commercially viable, are due to come online in the summer.

Welsh Assembly Government e-minister Andrew Davies said: "Currently, around 99 per cent of the Welsh population can access broadband technology...however, the Assembly Government is committed to ensuring that virtually every single individual and business in Wales has the opportunity to benefit from the advantages offered by this technology.

"Today's announcement will lead to further growth in broadband uptake as these final unviable exchange areas are enabled."

BT is understood to be footing around a third of the cost of the bill, believed to be as much as £13m, with the rest coming from taxpayers. But even with all of BT's exchanges broadband-enabled, there will still be plenty of areas within Wales unable to secure affordable broadband access.

Which is why once these exchanges are up and running, officials intend to identify broadband blackspots to see what other technologies can be deployed to deliver high speed services.

Last month, for example, the European Commission (EC) gave the go-ahead for plans by the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) to wire up 14 Welsh business parks in North Wales with broadband, previously unconnected due to their remote locations. But thanks to a scheme called "FibreSpeed Wales", the WDA is looking to hire a wholesale operator to construct an open, carrier-neutral, fibre-optic network linking all 14 business parks.

Although the EC has agreed that such a project would not breach state aid rules, a final decision on whether the project can proceed is likely to be made later this year. ®

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