Subsidy boost for business broadband

The Welsh Development Agency is reaching into its pockets in a bid to ensure that Welsh businesses don't lose out because they cannot afford a high-speed Internet connection

Businesses and voluntary agencies in Wales are now being offered much greater subsidies for high-speed Internet services after the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) gave its broadband support scheme a major revamp.

The WDA announced on Wednesday that it is raising the maximum amount of subsidy available when a company signs up for a broadband connection. The WDA will now pay half the costs during the first year, up to a maximum grant of £3,000.

Previously, the maximum subsidy available was just £1,500 and only applied to satellite connections. Now, firms will also be able to claim back the cost of a fixed-line or wireless link. For the first time, the WDA's broadband subsidies will also be available to charities as well as commercial firms.

"For organisations in Wales, this will have a major impact on their ability to run a profitable business and will begin to level the playing field for companies located in areas where broadband access is only available via costly satellite links," said the WDA in a statement.

The availability of affordable broadband services is significantly lower in Wales than in most other parts of the UK. There are many remote and rural areas within the principality where BT's ADSL network doesn't reach. The WDA said it anticipates that these new higher levels of subsidy will make broadband as cheap for Welsh customers as it is to those in the South-East of England.

The UK government has taken a firm line against broadband subsidies, saying that it wants market forces to drive the creation of Broadband Britain. Politicians in Scotland, Wales and Ireland though have taken the view that direct action is needed if their regions are not to suffer.