Assurances given on Broadband

Angus North and Mearns MSP Nigel Don has won assurances from the Scottish government about fast access to the internet for rural communities.

Mr Don asked the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Alex Neil, what he would do to ensure consumers and businesses in rural areas could get broadband internet connections. Mr Neil is currently investing more than £200 million to improve broadband speeds around Scotland with the aim of providing superfast connection speeds to between 85 and 90% of the population.

Mr Neil responded, “I have made it absolutely clear that I am determined that remote rural areas and island communities will not be at the tail end of the process. The whole point of the money that we are investing is to get, in the shortest time, to the areas where need is greatest. During the summer, I will announce various other initiatives that will be designed specifically to deal with the kind of situation in which Mr Don’s constituents find themselves.”

Nigel Don said, “I look forward to the Cabinet Secretary’s next announcement on broadband with great interest, and I very much appreciate the assurances he provided. In some ways rural areas are becoming more remote as transport links disappear, postal services are reduced, petrol and diesel becomes increasingly expensive and local shops dwindle. The internet is becoming an essential part of life, but some of those who need it most, in rural areas, have very slow connection speeds.

“Fast broadband is not a luxury in rural areas; it’s a necessity and essential to the quality of life and to the growth of the local economy.”

The Cabinet Secretary also referred to “Scotland’s Digital Future—Infrastructure Action Plan” which was published on 31 January 2012. He said this plan makes it clear that public sector intervention in next generation broadband infrastructure will be targeted solely in the areas where the market is not delivering or will not deliver next generation broadband.