Slow broadband: MACY on the pop star with slow internet

from Huw Thomas, Business Correspondent, BBC Wales News

BBC Macy Landon-Jones with her laptopBBC

Macy Landon-Jones – who performs as MACY – uses the internet to upload songs and work with other songwriters

A wide swath across Wales is making it harder for artists to reach pop stardom, according to a singer-songwriter.

Macy Landon-Jones, 23, performs as MACY and relies on her slow connection at home in Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent, to upload large music files and work with online writers.

Abertillery has some of the slowest broadband speeds in Wales – with average speeds slower than the UK as a whole.

There is a huge difference between average speeds in different parts of the country and political parties are vowing to improve the situation.

MACY MACY singing on stage holding a microphone.  Her bass player, a man, stands behind her.MACY

MACY is among a generation of artists who rely on the Internet to promote their work

Macy said she was nine years old when she decided to follow her dream of becoming a music artist

And Internet access has been “really important” in making it happen, she said — and has helped her songs reach more than a million streams.

“I use Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Spotify, you name it,” Macy said.

And it would be “a hundred times easier” to work on and promote her music with a faster connection, she added.

“It’s really important to reach out to new people and promote concerts and upcoming music, and I upload my music online. So, yeah, it’s huge.”

MACY MACY on TikTok and Instagram MACY

Social networks have been important for the singer-songwriter to promote her work

The data shows that Macy lives in one of the areas with the lowest average speed in Wales.

Communities around Abertillery in Blaenau Gwent and Tonypandy in Rhondda Cynon Taf have average speeds between 47 and 53 megabits per second (mbps). Some families will have even slower speeds.

The fastest average speeds in Wales are concentrated around Cardiff, Newport and Swansea in the south, and parts of Flintshire and Denbighshire in the north-east.

The Cathays North area of ​​Cardiff has average speeds of 252Mbps according to data from regulator Ofcom.

The average broadband speed in Wales is slower than the UK as a whole. Data from Ofcom showed download speeds in Wales were 122.9Mbps, compared to a UK average of 151.3Mbps.

To help improve connection speed and reliability, communications company Ogi is one of the organizations installing fiber broadband in communities around south Wales.

Its new cable network is helping areas that have suffered from slow or interrupted connections in the past.

“We’re focused on underserved areas,” said Ogi’s Justin Leese.

As the company’s chief technology and operations officer, he oversaw Ogi’s decision to install fiber cables in towns from Pembrokeshire to Monmouthshire.

“The average internet speed in Wales is around 112 megabits [per second]but once you get out of the cities, it’s more like 50 to 80 megabits,” Mr Leese said.

In Tonypandy, the company has enabled thousands of homes to get a faster internet connection, a move that should help the area shed its reputation for having some of the slowest broadband speeds.

Ogi's Justin Leese at the company's cabinet in Tonypandy

Justin Leese says fast broadband is transforming communities used to slow speeds

Mr Leese said the arrival of superfast broadband was “transformational” for some communities.

“We’re bringing speeds that are as good as, if not better than, the speeds available in cities to communities like this,” he said.

Businesses and households now had the “benefits of this ability,” especially when it came to working from home or accessing health care services online.

A poor internet connection is more than frustrating for businesses like Hearthside Games in Abertillery, where owner Josh Hill runs tabletop role-playing events, bringing people into the shop to enjoy games such as Dungeons and Dragons, Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering.

Many of the events are online-based, with games being driven by an online element that also controls the lighting and soundtrack in the gaming room.

Hearthside Games owner Josh Hill playing a game

Josh Hill (right) runs the online supported tabletop gaming events

“When Wi-Fi goes down, which I almost guarantee on Saturday, that means our resources are completely disrupted. That means customer experiences are disrupted.

“It also means our point-of-sale systems – our card readers – go down, so we can’t sell anything,” Josh said.

The unreliability of the connection is a predictable part of running his business, and Josh said a fast and stable connection would make a “world of difference” to him.

“You won’t have to worry about the system going down,” he added.

An engineer in a telecommunications cabinet

All political parties promise to improve superfast broadband coverage

Funding from the UK and Welsh governments has helped cover some of the ‘installation of superfast broadband connections in communities where it is not always commercially viable.

The constant need for improved connectivity has seen political parties campaign for broadband speeds ahead of the general election.

What do the parties say?

The Tories and Labor point the finger at each other, having both been in government in Westminster and Cardiff in recent years.

A Tory spokesman said the party had given “billions in gigabit broadband funding” and that “the Welsh Labor government [was] lagging behind”.

A Labor spokesman said the Conservatives’ investment in 5G was “lagging behind other countries and the roll-out of gigabit broadband has been slow”, adding that the Welsh Labor Government had ensured “access to gigabit-capable broadband in more than 121,000 premises”.

Other parties also pledged to improve connectivity.

Plaid Cymru said rural areas “suffer the most from poor broadband connections” and would call on the UK government to “release more Project Gigabit money” to improve connections in areas with little or no access to fast broadband or 4G signal at all.

More on the 2024 general election

The Liberal Democrats said access to fast internet was “vital in today’s world, particularly as some rural communities want to take advantage of changing working patterns” and would use “bespoke solutions” to ensure all families could have access to super fast broadband.

The reform said access to superfast broadband across rural Wales was “terrible” and would “encourage collaboration” between the government and communications companies to fund better connections “for every community that requires it to in the year 2029”.

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