Worry over broadband campaign

Local Labour politicians have voiced concern over the “worryingly low” registration rate for fibre optic broadband.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown and Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray warned that areas of the region risk being left behind if more local people do not register their interest in their local community being one of the first areas to receive fibre optic broadband.

The South of Scotland Next Generation Broadband Project has been collecting a register of people in the area who want fibre optic broadband. So far, few people in Dumfries and Galloway have registered.

Mr Brown said: “The registration rate in Dumfries and Galloway is worryingly low. In Stranraer the registration rate is only 0.38 percent while Dumfries it is only 0.1 percent better.

“Across the region, barely any of our towns or villages registration rates are in double figures. Compare that to the Borders, where some of their towns and villages are over 50 percent. This is a real concern, especially in rural areas where broadband is already difficult to get. We need all those who live in rural areas to register so that the suppliers can see there is a real appetite for the upgrade among rural users. We do not want them to be left behind.”

As to why the figures are so low, Mr Brown added: “Such low figures are due to the lack of publicity around the programme. The council is only now producing a leaflet publicising the need to register. However, I am urging the council, the Scottish government and BT to do more to promote the fact that people need to register their interest.”

Dr Murray said: “The more people who register, the more chance we have of being one of the first areas for roll-out. Registering your interest will demonstrate to the Scottish government and the commercial suppliers that there is sufficient demand for better broadband across Dumfries and Galloway.

“Improving our broadband infrastructure will bring benefits both for communities and businesses. For communities, it will allow many community groups who also use the web to keep members informed and involved as well as improving access to local services. For businesses, it will allow them to expand and develop.

“If we can be one of the first regions to get fibre optic broadband it will improve our chances of attracting new businesses to the region which will bring new jobs. In these tough economic times, we need every investment and infrastructure improvement we can get.”

A Dumfries and Galloway Council spokesperson said: “The campaign to get local people to register demand for broadband has been under way for some time.

“Last year, every household in Dumfries and Galloway received information about the South of Scotland Broadband project in our Council’s Broadcast magazine, including a link to the demand registration survey. A similar magazine exists for Scottish Borders. There is a website devoted to the roll out of broadband around our region and the project team has just recently set up social media channels. There have been frequent press releases on the topic since our Council first discussed the project. Now that the contractor has been chosen, we can expect the marketing campaign to ramp up. The challenge is in persuading people who already have some level of broadband that their registration is needed too. One reason for seeking people’s registration is to target a demand stimulation campaign more effectively.

“Every quarter, the project team produces an update which is sent out widely throughout the community including community councils, MPs, MSPs and many other community planning partners. The update also encourages people to register their demand for broadband. The team has also talked to a wide range of community groups and we hope they will play their part in spreading the word in their towns and villages.

“The online survey has been available since last year. Leaflets were distributed some time ago, however, the next batch of leaflets will have a hard copy survey on the reverse and will soon be available in libraries and customer service centres across the South of Scotland.

An information pack is in preparation for customer service staff around the South of Scotland to make sure that they are fully briefed in preparation for questions from the public. More marketing methods will be employed in the coming months.”

To register your demand for broadband go to http://www.southofscotland.org/