Assembly committee misguided over obstructions to digital rollout, says FUW

A NAtioNAl Assembly for Wales committee has been misled into making a draconian recommendation that would play into the hands of multi-billion pound telecommunication companies, says the FUW.

the union has also suggested that the committee may have been naive in not identifying the true motives of those advocating such moves. the National Assembly for Wales’ Economy, infrastructure and Skills Committee recently published a report entitled Digital infrastructure in Wales, which included a recommendation that ‘the Welsh Government should consider making future public subsidy conditional on supporting government policy to improve digital infrastructure, and to ensure that it meets the needs of consumers in the future, in particular any likely convergence between broadband and mobile internet connectivity.’ Responding to the report in a letter to Committee Chair Russell George AM, Gavin Williams, (pictured above), chairman of the FUW’s land use and parliamentary committee, said: “the FUW has long been a proponent of increasing both broadband and mobile phone coverage in Wales, and has worked closely with ofcom and others for more than a decade to highlight the needs of Wales’ communities in terms of both.”

Mr Williams goes on to highlight the fact that the union is unaware of any instances where farmers have refused to enter into a fair agreement with commercial companies responsible for digital infrastructure – but is aware of many cases where

agreement has been reached between farmers and communication companies but planning permission has been refused, and of instances where companies have behaved in unacceptable and unprofessional ways in order to try and install communication infrastructure on private land.

“there may well be a handful of cases where landowners have been uncooperative, but we would suggest that members of the Economy, infrastructure and Skills

Committee have been misled if they believe this is so widespread that it warrants a draconian recommendation to Government,” said Mr Williams.

“Rather, we would suggest that the underlying motive for those who have suggested such a barrier exists at any scale is the wish to boost company profits by seeking changes which would allow farmers and landowners to be bullied into signing contracts which do not represent the commercial nature of work and installations.”

Mr Williams concludes his letter by saying, “We share the Committee’s frustrations regarding barriers to broadband and mobile coverage, but find it wholly unacceptable that a National Assembly for Wales committee has been led to believe – some would say naively – that it would be desirable to see multi-billion pound commercial companies boosting their profits by forcing family farms to accept one-sided agreements that in no way reflect the commercial nature of mobile and broadband infrastructure.”

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