RESIDENTS and businesses in Monmouthshire are being put at "a severe disadvantage" by poor internet connections, a new report claims.

Monmouthshire council is drawing up a 'digital deprivation action plan' in an attempt to improve broadband coverage across the county.

Digital deprivation rates in Monmouthshire stand at 12.5 per cent, compared to three to four per cent across the Cardiff Capital Region.

A draft of the new strategy, which is due to be discussed by councillors next week, says there are "clear pockets of digital deprivation" in the county.

It says digital businesses are struggling to deliver a high quality service, home owners are struggling to sell their homes and students are unable to undertake their studies effectively due to poor internet connections.

"The current digital deprivation rate of 12.5 per cent in Monmouthshire is unacceptable, it puts our communities and businesses and indeed Wales at a severe disadvantage, particularly given Monmouthshire’s proximity to the economic powerhouses of the South West, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire," a council report says.

"Therefore there is a strategic imperative to ensure that Monmouthshire has sufficient NGA (Superfast Broadband Next Generation Access) connectivity to maximise our economic growth and wealth creation capability."

The report says Monmouthshire council and residents feel the delivery of superfast broadband in Monmouthshire has not been seen as a priority area by Welsh Government.

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Anecdotal evidence is provided in the draft plan from residents, small business owners and families, detailing their frustrations with slow internet speeds.

Business owners say they are left frustrated by interruptions when trying to make conference calls on Skype.

One man says his wife has to drive to her parents' house in Chepstow to use their internet to run a business.

Another resident says communities are being "left behind in an accelerating digital world."

"If we were a quaint backwater before, we are slipping further beneath the surface at an increasing pace," the resident says.

"The really sad thing is that these communities have come to manage with what they have, however disadvantaged they are in a digital world”.

Another family says children struggle to complete homework online because of poor connectivity.

The draft plan identifies three main opportunities to address the issues.

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These include using approved Local Full Fibre Network funding to improve services and applying for funding to provide full fibre connectivity to Cross Ash and Mardy schools.

A new role will need to be created to develop the potential opportunities, with an expected salary of £30-35k.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We have taken action as the private sector had no plans to rollout the infrastructure across large parts of Wales.

"The Superfast Cymru project invested significantly in rural Wales and thanks to our intervention, more than 19,000 premises in Monmouthshire are now able to access superfast broadband that would not otherwise have been able to."