One of my earliest Christmas memories was of my father ceremonially phoning close relatives, who had ended up living in Canada as a result of the war. It was always a crackly line, and a short conversation due to the high costs, and of course you couldn’t see anyone on the other end of a phone – not in the 1970s!
Friends and relatives are increasingly likely to live on the other side of the country or even the world, but the revolution in IT services has meant that with a laptop connected to Skype it is possible to talk to and see family for virtually nothing.
There is a catch. To do so a fast broadband connection is vital. Earlier this year the Welsh Affairs Committee, which I chair, spent many months examining the poor standard of broadband provision in rural Wales. The subsequent report which is online (for those who have a connection) offers some practical recommendations which would lead to improvements.
It would be good if Santa could arrive in Monmouthshire on a large JCB with several hundred miles of fibre optic cable to lay across the county, to ensure that everyone starts to receive a basic service.
I suspect he wont, so in the new year the Welsh Affairs Committee will want to re-visit the issue. Improvements are happening but more must be done. The Welsh Assembly, the UK government and BT must co-operate with each other, and with the growing number of independent internet providers coming into the market.
Merry Christmas to everyone.