2020 vision for rural high-speed broadband

RURAL communities will get access to next generation of high-speed broadband by 2020, MSPs were told yesterday.

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead highlighted the need for rural Scotland to be included in the digital revolution for high-speed broadband and 4G mobile coverage.

He said high-speed broadband was important to both domestic users and small businesses, adding: "We have set out our ambition for all of Scotland to have access to next-generation broadband by 2020, with significant progress to be made by 2015.

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"Meeting the challenge of delivering this service to rural areas in particular is a key priority of our digital strategy.

Mr Lochhead went on: "Last week, parliament had the opportunity to debate the future of rural Scotland. One major theme was rural connectivity in the context of next-generation or high-speed broadband. Indeed, I myself said that if we can connect our communities, we can offer rural Scotland and the whole nation a brighter future."

He said the UK government had allocated 530 million to the roll-out of next-generation broadband for rural areas and he was working to secure the best possible share for Scotland. He also emphasised the importance of better mobile phone coverage in rural areas.

Elaine Murray, Labour MSP for Dumfriesshire, said improving access was "do-able".

She added: "Investment will provide better service for Scottish residents, efficiency savings for the public sector and global opportunities for global businesses. The time for warm and woolly words is over. Let's just get on with making this happen."

North East Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: "I think it's important that we send out a very strong signal that there is unity on the need to improve digital connectivity, in rural Scotland in particular."

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