Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown has backed a report calling for clearer information for local residents on the coverage and range of speeds that the development of a superfast broadband will deliver.
The Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) have appointed BT, through two contracts, to develop a superfast broadband network with capacity to deliver speeds of 40-80 Megabits per second (Mb/s). The Scottish Government’s interim target is for 85-90 per cent of premises in Scotland including Dumfries and Galloway to have access to the network by March 2016, and to extend this to over 95 per cent by the end of 2017.
However, a report from Audit Scotland entitled ‘Superfast Broadband for Scotland’ published this week criticises the Scottish Government for failing to properly notify communities what speeds will ultimately be available in each area. The contracts don’t guarantee speeds of 40-80 Mb/s for all premises, and the Scottish Government and HIE have not stated clearly what speeds will ultimately be delivered. Just over three quarters of the premises in the areas covered can expect to receive access to maximum speeds of more than 24 Mb/s. The remaining 23 per cent may need technological advances or further investment before they can access superfast broadband speeds. Exact details of what speeds will be delivered are dependent on completion of survey work by BT.
Mr Brown is also concerned that residents in Dumfries and Galloway is being kept in the dark over exact dates when superfast broadband will reach their area.
He said: “Having access to superfast broadband is increasingly important for local communities, both in terms of home use but also business use. It’s fine for the Scottish Government to say that 95 percent of properties will be covered by 2017. However, local people are frustrated at the lack of detailed information they are receiving. This report backs up those concerns by highlghting the fact we still don’t know what broadband speeds many people will actually have when it is rolled out.
“Residents have also rightly criticised the lack of information when it comes to the exact dates when broadband will reach their communities. All we are told is that will be anytime between now and the end of 2017. When people check the BT or Digital Scotland websites and type in their postcode they are often given contradictory information with one website saying superfast broadband is available in their area and another saying it isn’t.”
The MP is also concerned over what will happen in the communities not covered by the contracts to deliver broadband to 95% of homes. The remaining 5% will have to rely on work being done by Community Broadband Scotland to access broadband, however it remains unclear which areas of Dumfries and Galloway will come into the 5% and whether Community Broadband Scotland will ultimately be able to provide them with broadband.
He added: “We shouldn’t forget that 5% of properties in Dumfries and Galloway won’t get Superfast broadband through these contracts. They will have to rely on Community Broadband Scotland to find a solution that delivers broadband to those properties. However, people don’t fully know exactly which areas of Dumfries and Galloway that is, never mind what Community Broadband Scotland are doing to get broadband to those communities and when. We are in real danger of having a two tier service with rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway being forgotten once again by the Scottish Government with areas having either no broadband or a slower service.”