‘Eccles experience’ suggests broadband targets are misleading

The experience of residents in Eccles suggests a serious problem with the way in which the Scottish Government measures its broadband targets.

The Scottish Government has set a target to bring high speed fibre broadband to 95% of premises in Scotland by the end of the year. However, it has been revealed that this includes all premises who have access to a high-speed enabled cabinet, regardless of whether such a connection has actually been established or indeed whether one is possible.

In the Scottish Affairs Committee meeting today, John Lamont MP raised evidence the committee received from Grace Ormiston from Eccles. There, the community was told two years ago that they would be getting superfast broadband via an exchange 2.5 miles away. However, when the first properties were connected to that exchange, the speed residents received was lower than the previous standard broadband line and the fibre connection was subsequently removed.

Because the nearest cabinet to Eccles remains fibre enabled, all properties in the village are counted as having access to superfast broadband despite not actually having a decent connection.

After this was raised in Westminster by John Lamont, Pete Moorey, Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs at consumer group Which? agreed that this type of story was “one we’ve heard of an awful lot.” He went on to say that it was “very easy for companies, Governments or others to state to local communities they are getting a faster speed only to find that is not their lived-in experience.”

Andrew Ferguson, Editor in Chief of Think Broadband, the UK’s leading independent broadband information service, agreed that it was “definitely, definitely not the case” that all the homes counted in the target actually have a superfast connection.

Nearly half of the responses the Committee has so far received as part of this inquiry have come from the Scottish Borders. Evidence has been received from Gavinton, Fogo and Polwarth Community Council, Newcastleton District Community Trust, Southdean Community Council and residents living near Jedburgh, Eccles, Kirk Yetholm, Houndridge and Lauder.

Speaking after the meeting, John Lamont MP said: “I am hugely encouraged that so many people from the Borders have submitted their views to the Scottish Affairs Committee. It demonstrates the massive problems we have with connectivity in rural parts.

“The evidence we received from Eccles seriously calls into question the Scottish Government’s claim that 95 per cent of residents in Scotland are due to be getting superfast broadband under their watch. To claim that these residents all have a superfast connection is simply misleading.

“The experience of residents there is far from unique. Too often residents in the Borders are being told that they can get superfast broadband only for the reality to be very different.

“The Scottish Government needs to be straight with people and we need to have a better picture of how many people are still without a decent broadband connection, otherwise these targets are meaningless.

“In what was the first meeting of this inquiry we heard a lot of interesting points about what can be done to improve connectivity and I look forward to carrying on this work.”