More than 700,000 homes connected to superfast broadband through Digital Scotland scheme
Lib Dem connectivity spokesperson Mike Rumbles warns that Scottish Government commitment to rural broadband must not stall
Telephone box in Oykel Bridge, Lairg, Sutherland - Image credit: Phillip Capper, Wikimedia Commons
More than 700,000 homes and business in Scotland are now connected to fibre broadband through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, according to the Scottish Government.
The Government says it is on track to meet its target of connecting 95 per cent of premises to superfast broadband by the end of 2017.
The announcement was made ahead of today’s meeting of the Cabinet in Pitlochry, which is focused on the rural economy.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Thanks to the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, more and more towns like Pitlochry now have fibre broadband available.
“The programme has now connected broadband to 700,000 homes and businesses – 13,400 in Perthshire North and 1,950 in Pitlochry – that would just not have access without our intervention.
“There is still more to do to make Scotland a world-class digital nation by 2020.
“The current programme is on track and we will extend superfast broadband access to all premises across Scotland by 2021, with £51 million earmarked in the next year as the starting point for delivery.”
“It is this kind of ambitious intervention, delivered in partnership with industry, that contributes to sustainable economic growth in rural Scotland.
“Improving our infrastructure and increasing our digital capability is vital to rural development and enabling innovation and growth.”
However there has been concern raised about the five per cent of Scotland that is not covered in the first stage of the rollout and about actual broadband speeds on the ground.
Scottish Liberal Democrat connectivity spokesperson Mike Rumbles urged the Scottish Government to demonstrate that commitments to expanding rural broadband are more than a “paper tiger”.
Rumbles said: “Despite new technologies being developed and speeds for some getting faster and faster, other businesses and residents outside of Scotland’s cities have too often been left behind.
“Even in areas where new cabling has been laid, poor service has often not improved one iota.
“Efforts to expand superfast broadband must be more than a paper tiger.
“I welcome that the Scottish Government are finally facing up to the task of providing a decent internet service outside the Central Belt but we cannot see this project stall at 95 per cent when businesses and individuals are depending on a good quality internet connection.
“The SNP must start to show real progress for those in rural areas to ensure that those communities are not left behind.”
The Scottish Government has a target to reach 95 per cent of premises with superfast broadband of 30Mps or above by the end of 2017 and 100 per cent of premises by 2021.
SNP Digital Economy spokesperson Calum Kerr said rural areas will be left with broadband speeds that will be “obsolete within a decade”
Audit Scotland has evaluated progress on the rollout of superfast broadband in Scotland
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