South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the announcement of a Scottish Government led initiative that will ensure 95 per cent of Scottish properties have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2017.
The Scottish Government will work with local authorities; BT and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to co-ordinate a £264 million investment in the roll out of high speed broadband using the Scottish model of procurement.
Importantly, the scheme will give initial priority to small and medium sized businesses in rural areas to stimulate economic growth in these businesses.
It has been estimated that the project will deliver at least £2 billion in economic benefits over the next 15 years and 14,000 new jobs across Scotland.
SNP regional member Ms McAlpine says:
“Rural communities like many across the south of Scotland region I represent often suffer from poor broadband coverage and that is why it is important that these areas benefit from the Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering a step change by 2020.
“The Regualtory body Ofcom use a model that only demands coverage in areas with a high population density. Since England has a much higher concentration of people than Scotland it ends up with better connectivity.”
“Ofcom maps show that less than half of Scottish households currently have access compared with 71 per cent in England.
“That matters because business prospers with good communications, as do decent health services and education. Digital connectivity is vital to future economic prosperity and this contract will deliver real benefits to people and local businesses.
“I therefore welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has taken the initiative in coordinating all of the relevant stakeholders to correct what has been a glaring inequality in digital connectivity for some time.
“Of course - If the regulator Ofcom answered to the Scottish Parliament -or if Scotland were independent with our own communications regulators we could design a system more closely suited to Scotland’s needs.”