In a speech in the Scottish Parliament today, North East MSP Mike Rumbles will shine a light on the SNP’s failure to deliver adequate broadband services to rural communities - despite election promises of 100% coverage by 2021.
Ahead of May’s Scottish elections, SNP candidates across the country promised that every home and business in Scotland would have superfast speed broadband by the end of the parliament. Even so, many constituents who live in the North East and the Highlands & Islands have reported that current levels of connectivity are woefully inadequate.
Mr Rumbles said: “It’s time the Scottish Government admitted that having a green box installed by the roadside every few miles is not the same as every home having access to superfast speeds of broadband.
“Where we live in Aberdeenshire we, and our neighbours, 18 months ago watched as cabling passed right in front of our homes and a green cabinet was fitted down the road, but our already poor service has not improved one iota. On top of that, providers have confessed that meeting Scottish Government targets will be ‘challenging’ and homes in our area will not be seeing superfast broadband any time soon.
“How long does the Scottish Government believe they can pull the wool over the eyes of rural communities before they are forced to acknowledge their promises are undeliverable under the current programme? Perhaps one week after the 2021 election?
“The SNP must start taking seriously the challenges faced by communities North of the central belt, take urgent action, and show real progress. They have a genuine opportunity to make the most of all strengths the North of Scotland has to offer, but central belt bias is blinding them into a stupor.”
Notes for editors:
- Draft of Mike Rumbles MSP’s speech to the Scottish Parliament, to be delivered during the Scottish Government Debate: Realising Scotland’s Full Potential in a Digital World on Thursday 3rd October 2016 (please check against delivery):
I would like to begin my contribution by quoting from the SNP Government’s Programme for Scotland 2016-2017.
On page 33 of this document it says…
“Our commitment is to deliver superfast broadband access to at least 95% of premises in Scotland by the end of 2017, and 100% by 2021. This will transform connectivity, improving the productivity of businesses in remote and rural areas and the prospects of people who live there.”
Grand words full of promise, or so one would be lead to believe.
Now Presiding Officer, I could give examples of what many of the people who have contacted me about this have to say about it but I don’t want to involve them. So, if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to use my own experiences as an example.
I live in a beautiful part of rural Scotland, not so remote really because a trunk road, the A97 runs right past my front door.
I mention this because we have a terrible broadband connection and I together with my neighbours were really looking forward to being connected with superfast broadband as advertised by the Scottish government.
Eighteen months ago we were delighted to see that the roadside outside our homes was being dug up and guess what, yes the superfast broadband cable was being laid. Right outside our homes – along the length of the A97 at Kildrummy in Aberdeenshire.
Yes, Deputy Presiding Officer – you’ve guessed it.
Imagine the disappointment to be told that actually even though the broadband cable is being laid right outside your home that you are not going to be connected.
Why is this one might ask?
Well, the superfast broadband cable isn’t being delivered to each home - it is being delivered to a series of ‘green boxes’ along the route.
My house and that of my neighbours isn’t connected to a ‘green box’ - they are connected to the telephone exchange.
So, even though the superfast cable is going right by us – we aren’t any distance from it – we aren’t being connected.
Now I have no doubt that the Minister genuinely believes that this roll out programme is going well and that the statement made in the government’s ‘Plan for Scotland’ is being fulfilled.
However, the reality is that broadband access is not being delivered to every home, just to every ‘green box’ in the land.
I repeat my point - superfast broadband is not being delivered to every home or business premises.
I am being reliably informed from those that are in a position to tell me, that actually far from improving my already poor broadband service, the likelihood is that this service will actually get worse as those who are on the superfast connection adversely affect my signal.
If the Minister is really of the belief that all is well with this programme and that 95% of premises will be connected by next year and that all premises will be connected by 2021 then either he is being duped by the providers of this service or he doesn’t understand the contracts that the Scottish Government has signed.
It’s all very well to boast that 7,700 kilometres of cable have been laid – enough to stretch from Glasgow to Katmandu – as it says in the Scottish Government’s blurb.
It might be good for Katmandu but it isn’t any good for Kildrummy.