New Ofcom report on broadband should be a ‘wake-up call’ for Scottish Government

An annual report from independent regulator Ofcom should be a ‘wake-up’ call for the Scottish Government about how poor broadband coverage is in rural areas, local MP John Lamont has said.

 

The Connected Nations Report 2017 has once again found that Scotland lags behind the rest of the UK in terms of superfast broadband coverage.

While the power to legislate on broadband is reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government is in charge of the delivery of superfast broadband, as are local authorities in England and Wales.

The report concludes that in 2017, 87% of premises in Scotland had access to superfast broadband, behind the UK wide figure of 91% and behind that of England (92%) and Wales (89%).

In rural areas, this broadband gap is even more stark. In Scottish cities, only 2% of homes and businesses don’t have decent broadband, compared to 27% in rural areas. Across the UK as a whole, only 17% of premises in rural areas cannot receive a decent broadband service.

The report also concludes that currently around 150,000 premises in Scotland are set to qualify for the UK Government’s planned Universal Service Obligation, which will give every household and small business the right to request a broadband service capable of a download speed of at least 10Mbit/s, and an upload speed of at least 1Mbit/s.

These findings come just days after the Scottish Government Minister in charge of the roll out of superfast broadband in Scotland, Fergus Ewing insisted that he was doing a good job and that “any assertion” that Scotland is behind the rest of the UK on superfast broadband rollout is “completely untrue.”

Commenting on the report, John Lamont MP said: “This really needs to be a wake-up call for the Scottish Government, who are in denial about the state of broadband in rural areas like the Borders.

“This report finds that nearly a third of homes and businesses in rural areas, do not even have access to a decent broadband connection. This figure is far higher than in other rural parts of the UK.

“Because the Scottish Government decided they wanted to control the delivery of superfast broadband themselves, rather than allow local councils to do it, the focus has inevitably been on the easier to connect properties in the central belt. The Scottish Government have left rural areas to another day, which is why places like the Borders are being left behind.

“I’m encouraged, however, that the UK Government’s Universal Service Obligation, which will give everyone a legal right to a decent broadband connection, is set to benefit 150,000 properties across Scotland. Many people in the Borders, will for the first time, have the right to demand a decent connection.

“What Borderers need now is action, not excuses from the Scottish Government, before the Borders is left even further behind.”