Ceredigion has become the first area in Wales to be targeted by a national campaign aimed at bringing free broadband to badly connected rural areas using the latest mobile phone technology.
Free gadgets and broadband connections are being given to 20 local families and businesses for a year, with the help of the county council and the Rural Broadband Working Group -- which consists of mobile phone operator Three UK, the Countryside Alliance and Race Online 2012.
The scheme was launched in Aberaeron on Wednesday.
The families and businesses are being provided with Three’s cutting edge mi-fi units – gadgets which create personal wi-fi hotspots for homes and businesses.
In addition, a mi-fi is being given to the charity Noddfa, which will use device at its weekly meetings, allowing anyone who comes to connect to the internet for free. People selected for the free service have either no access to a broadband connection, or very slow speeds of around 300kb per second, which makes web-browsing very slow and hinders the delivery of emails and media such as pictures or streamed video content.
Three UK has recently spent nearly £1m in the region upgrading its network to support the growth of usage in mobile broadband and smartphones such as the iPhone. This has also included installing improved 3G technology, which has seen customers receive speeds in excess of 10Mbps.
David Dyson, chief executive at Three UK said: “Three has recently been investing in its network in the Ceredigion area, so it is a natural next step for the Working Group to target the disconnected here. Unfortunately, because of the limitations of fixed-line broadband, there are still too many areas which still can’t receive a usable fixed line broadband service.
“This is exactly where mobile broadband can bridge the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ whether they are on the side of a hill, or deep down in a valley. Hopefully people will now be able to surf the web, download emails, do their shopping online or even work from home for the first time.”
Rachel Evans, Wales regional director of the Countryside Alliance, said: “People living in rural Wales suffer from some of the worst broadband speeds of anywhere in the UK and it hits local businesses, families and farmers especially hard.
“The Countryside Alliance is doing its utmost to get the countryside connected and we are especially supportive of initiatives like the Rural Broadband Working Group, which use the latest technology to bring fast internet coverage to some of the country’s worst notspots.”