Poor broadband forces girl to do homework in lay-by

By Bethan Lewis
BBC Wales education correspondent

media captionWhy Grug has to do her homework in a lay-by

A 12-year-old schoolgirl does her homework in a lay-by due to poor broadband and mobile connections.

Grug Williams has to be driven a mile away from her home near Gwytherin, Conwy county, to find a signal to download schoolwork.

A councillor said "digital inequality" was a real problem in the area.

Openreach said it was extending fibre broadband as quickly as possible but understood the frustration in places which could not yet access it.

The Williams family live on a farm on the outskirts of Gwytherin, which has been the winner of a "best kept village" award on four occasions.

But the broadband connection at the Williams's home is "very sporadic" and they cannot access the internet via their mobile phones.

Grug's mother Einir Williams said young people, like her daughter, are being disadvantaged because of where they live.

"Since Grug moved up to secondary school I've noticed a bigger difference than when she was in primary", she said.

"Because of the homework being centred around the children having to do research themselves on the internet and trying to upload photos can take ages if we can get on the internet at all".

image captionThe lay-by is a mile from the family farm

Grug, a pupil at Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy in Llanrwst, added: "It's handy for pictures and facts for the work.

"In art I had to get a picture of a building and copy it and there wasn't enough internet so we had to go to my auntie's house".

As well as going to a relative's house to use their wi-fi, Grug and her mother also use the lay-by to access 4G.

They create a hotspot with a mobile phone to connect their laptop to a network.

"It is more stressful and it does eat into our time as a family as well," said Mrs Williams.

"By the time we get home and have supper then it's time to think of jumping in the car and finding wi-fi whether it's in a lay-by to get 4G or going to my sister-in-law's house."

image captionBT Openreach say superfast broadband extension is a priority

Local councillor and Conwy Council's cabinet member for education says it's a "real problem" for young people.

"It's an inequality", said Garffild Lloyd Lewis.

"It's not a gap, it's not a digital divide it's a digital inequality - that young people are forced to go away from their homes to stay on after school to do their homework, to do their research and not be able to do that at home because of this lack of connectivity".

The Welsh Government said the Superfast Cymru programme - aimed at providing superfast broadband to areas not covered by commercial rollout - had "transformed" Wales' digital landscape.

A spokesman said: ""We want to go further though and earlier this year we announced a range of measures to further extend fast and reliable broadband coverage in Wales."

Openreach, part of the BT group, said it had been a priority to make it available to as many properties across Wales as quickly as possible.

A spokesman said: "More than 750,000 homes and businesses can access superfast speeds above 30Mbps today thanks to the project - far more than was originally planned under the contract".

But he added: "We understand the frustration of those communities, such as Gwytherin, who currently cannot access fibre broadband".

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