THE campaign to bring fast broadband access to the rural depths of Galloway came one step closer this week when the Scottish Government announced it was contributing £5 million to the South of Scotland Next generation Broadband Project.
Elected members and community leaders have been pushing for better broadband services to encourage existing businesses to grow and new ones to invest in the area.
Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson said: “Given that the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway Councils have already committed up to £21 million towards this project, which is estimated to cost £120 million in total, £5 million might appear to be a fairly insignificant amount. However it is highly significant, in that it will allow the project to move towards the procurement phase, which will put flesh on the bones of this initiative”.
“In many ways access to high quality broadband is the very future for our region. Small and medium sized businesses depend on it, and will not locate in Dumfries and Galloway unless they have access to it. It is highly relevant that 58 per cent of the UK currently has access to Next Generation Broadband whereas the figure in our region is zero per cent. If we are to have genuine economic regeneration we simply must redress that situation”.
“If delivered on time, this project will deliver access to superfast broadband for 90 per cent of the region with the remaining 10 per cent receiving a minimum of two MBPS by the end of 2015. Given that much of that 10 per cent currently has no access at all, the importance of this project is there for all to see. It simply must happen, and this government announcement is a big step towards making it happen”.
SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod commented: “The broadband project is an ambitious one and must be a top priority for the South of Scotland. Without doubt access to next generation broadband will help this region to compete on a level playing field with the rest of Scotland and the wider world.
“Nothing has the potential to overcome the particular issues facing a rural economy than fast, reliable broadband. It is absolutely vital to the regional economy that rural businesses are able to connect with wider markets and broadband is the single most effective way of doing that.
“If the economy of Dumfries & Galloway, and the wider South of Scotland, is to grow and flourish in the future, the success of the broadband project is absolutely vital.”
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “This commitment is welcome because our region is in desperate need of faster, more reliable internet access. Slow broadband speeds are one of local people’s top concerns because there is a real fear our region is being left behind. Whether it’s keeping in touch with friends and relatives, online banking or shopping, local communities rightly expect fast access.
“A comprehensive broadband network is as important in terms of infrastructure as our roads and rail. Our geographical location means that a good internet connection that links us with the rest of the UK and the world is essential for attracting inward investment. Dumfries and Galloway should be aiming high because we have a wealth of talent locally to take advantage of the opportunities the digital economy presents.
“However, I am disappointed that the Tory-led UK Government’s delay to the superfast broadband roll-out has put back plans by three years. Local people have waited long enough and deserve the same speeds as everywhere else in the country.”