Scotland suffering from digital divide on fast broadband access

The Scottish Government was tonight urged to tell those still waiting for high-speed internet access when superfast broadband will be delivered to their homes and businesses.

The Scottish Government has been urged to confirm when those still waiting will receive access to superfast broadband

The plea came during a Holyrood debate which saw MSPs pass an amended motion acknowledging that there is a “digital divide” in Scotland where many rural and deprived areas have slow or no broadband access.

In his speech, Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles claimed broadband progress for rural areas and island communities had been “glacial”

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Mr Rumbles said:“The most common connectivity complaint is that the Scottish Government promise better broadband but then won’t say when and where it is going to be delivered. Despite new technologies being developed and speeds for some getting faster and faster, other businesses and residents outside of Scotland’s cities have too often been left out.

“Unfortunately, without a detailed rollout programme where consumers can check when they are going to get connected over the next three and a half years, many people will continue to be left in a digital desert.

“The SNP must start to show real progress for those in rural areas to ensure that those communities are not left behind.”

Labour’s Colin Smyth, MSP for the south of Scotland, said rural businesses were suffering, giving examples of a hotelier who needed to focus on online bookings but whose broadband cut out.

He also mentioned a businessman with an exchange only line who had been waiting years to be told whether or not he could be connected to fibre broadband.
Mr Smyth said: “The current Scottish Government target of 95 per cent is for fibre broadband. That is not the same as superfast broadband.

“But it is not just rural Scotland were there is a digital divide. Access to the internet is lower in many of our most deprived areas. The Scottish Government’s own household survey– albeit in 2016 – showed that 27 per cent of households in the most deprived areas had no home internet access, compared to 15 per cent elsewhere in Scotland.”

Rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing said around 890,000 additional premises now have access to fibre broadband through the Digital Scotland roll-out.  

He quoted thinkbroadband data showed that superfast coverage in Scotland was now at 93 per cent within two percentage points of the overall UK total.

Mr Ewing said the gap had closed since 2014 when it was 10 percentage points.