Mid and West AM Simon Thomas, Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood AM and Ceredigion MP Ben Lake visited James Davies Sawmills where they heard about difficulties with broadband.
Following the meeting the Assembly Members asked questions of the Welsh Government about how to boost the rural economy and improve the broadband service.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Simon Thomas AM said:
“There is a rather patronising attitude that some people have towards businesses in rural areas, some idea that you should put up with second-class service, simply because you’ve chosen to remain in your area.
“A promise has been to deliver superfast broadband to James Davies sawmills by the end of December. The sawmills have made several million pounds of investment in equipment that is run internationally—in Belgium; that’s where the headquarters of this equipment is.
“If something goes wrong with the equipment, they go down the line to Belgium for it to get sorted out. We could have an argument about whether that’s good or bad, but that’s what sawmills do; that’s what sawmills all over the western world do. And I don’t want that sawmill moved from the Teifi valley closer to Belgium, or closer to an internet connection. It’s employing 20 to 30 people in the Teifi valley—Welsh speakers as well. It’s an indigenous Welsh-owned family business.
“The letter from Julie James says that she will do everything she can to deliver this. But I’ve got a copy of an e-mail from a Welsh Government official, and I’m afraid that reads very differently. The e-mail says, ‘I’m not saying the broadband is good enough, but, just maybe, the sawmill management should have checked that before spending millions.’
“That’s the attitude that pervades broadband connection in rural Wales, and we have to overcome that attitude and give serious attention to broadband provision and entitlement.”
Rhondda AM Leanne Wood asked what the Welsh Government doing to boost the rural economy and highlighted the plight of Ceredigion businesses.
Plaid Leader Leanne Wood said: “When you look at transport infrastructure, broadband speeds—crucial building blocks for many businesses to make a success of things—there’s an overwhelming disparity in provision, and companies are at a competitive disadvantage.
“I recently visited a sawmill in Ceredigion, with my colleague Simon Thomas and Ben Lake, which needs decent broadband speeds in order to monitor the equipment, and that’s broadband speed that they don’t have most of the time.
“Incidentally, that system works fine in most of the other countries worldwide who use the same machines. Communities and businesses located outside of the urban areas of this country should be helped rather than hindered with their economic development.”