The results of an Aberdeenshire-wide survey on broadband have shown that there is an over-whelming demand for improved provision in the area.
Aberdeenshire Council has already agreed to contribute up to £18million to improve broadband services in the area but must provide evidence of demand from residents and businesses in order to be in the best position to access additional funding from the Scottish Government. Survey postcards were sent to every address in the area, with a total of 12,000 being returned - a response rate of 10.7%, more than four times the normal response rate for mail shot campaigns.
The survey showed that 98.6% of current subscribers expressed an interest in subscribing to a faster service, confirming that there is unsatisfied demand for better broadband connectivity throughout Aberdeenshire.
In addition, 81% of subscribers without access to broadband said that they would be interested in subscribing to a broadband service if one was available while almost 1000 people who don’t currently subscribe to a service stated that they would be interested in subscribing to a faster service.
Within the UK, rural Scotland’s broadband services are amongst the poorest and in Aberdeenshire, 17% of all addresses have no broadband connection because of infrastructure constraints.
This is insufficient to undertake many essential applications such as remote working, online health consultations and video streaming. A further 80% of addresses do not enjoy service speeds greater than 6Mbps (megabits per second).
The Scottish Government has begun a procurement programme to deliver upgraded infrastructure capable of delivering broadband speeds of at least 24Mbps to 75% of premises in each local authority area by the end of 2015, and a basic service of 2Mbps to the remaining 25%.
Aberdeenshire Council is prioritising reducing the digital divide through targeting some £16m on providing a better than 2Mbps service to those who may not receive this based on current Scottish Government plans.
In addition, the council will invest £2million alongside Aberdeen City Council towards superfast broadband services around the western boundary of Aberdeen and Westhill.
Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee Councillor Peter Argyle said: “The results of the survey send a very clear message that there is a huge demand from residents and businesses for improved broadband in the area.
“Although this is something we are already acutely aware of, as demonstrated by our £18m commitment to improve access to broadband in Aberdeenshire, it is vital that we can provide evidence of this need in order to be in the best position to access additional funding from the Scottish Government.
“I’d like to thank all those who took the time to fill in and return the survey postcard – there was a fantastic response which leaves no doubt of the need for better broadband provision in the area.”