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Scottish Government’s broadband strategy ‘failing rural communities’

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Scottish Rural Action report calls for major changes to speed up broadband roll-out

The Scottish Government’s broadband strategy is failing rural communities, a report has claimed.

According to the study for Scottish Rural Action (SRA), lack of high-speed internet access is harming rural businesses and depriving residents of the benefits enjoyed by city dwellers.

It highlights “serious failings” with the Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) initiative, set up by ministers in 2012 to deliver coverage across Scotland.

To date, the paper claims, CBS has connected just 3,950 premises to the broadband network.

The mechanisms intended to support communities are preventing, not enabling, progress

Researchers heard evidence that the initiative had been beset by long waiting times and “frustrating” bureaucracy.

BT, which is responsible for installing much of the infrastructure, also faced criticism for failing to communicate effectively with local communities and listen to their concerns.

An SRA working party is now urging ministers to redirect resources to speed up establishment of the infrastructure required to allow internet service providers to connect rural residents.

The group has put forward five key recommendations to improve broadband roll-out across Scotland.

SRA chair Amanda Burgauer said: “This report highlights some of the serious failings of the current system to deliver super-fast broadband to rural communities.

“The mechanisms intended to support communities are preventing, not enabling, progress.

“This report has been collated by our working group consisting of more than 30 individuals and community groups, who are all working hard on a voluntary basis to deliver this essential service to their locality.

“They feel strongly that the systems need to change if we are ever going to see equity between rural and urban communities and delivery of the Scottish Government’s commitment to super-fast broadband to 100% of premises in Scotland.”

In 2012, the Scottish Government set out a policy to deliver “world-class” digital access to all of the country by 2020.

But the SRA report states there is still a “clear inequity” between digital connectivity in densely populated areas and rural areas.

The proposals, part of the SRA’s draft manifesto for rural Scotland, will be debated at the Scottish Rural Parliament which meets in Brechin from October 6-8.

Other topics covered in the manifesto include rural concerns around local democracy and governance, policing, housing and transport.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This government has put digital connectivity at the heart of its agenda and delivering 100% superfast broadband coverage for Scotland by the end of the next parliament is one of our key priorities, and we intend to outline the next steps on this later this year.”



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