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Broadband (Rural Areas)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th June 2019.

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Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to deliver superfast broadband to rural communities. (S5O-03354)

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

The £400 million digital Scotland superfast broadband programme has already delivered truly transformative results across all Scotland’s local authorities, providing fibre broadband access to more than 930,000 homes and businesses so far. Thinkbroadband figures show that more than 93 per cent of Scotland’s premises can now access superfast broadband of 30 megabits per second and above. The equivalent figure for Aberdeenshire is 81.7 per cent.

Our £600 million reaching 100 per cent programme will deliver resilient and future-proofed broadband infrastructure that will ensure that every home and business in Scotland can access superfast broadband services, regardless of remoteness or rurality.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

Openreach is responsible for delivering broadband in Old Portlethen in my constituency. Unfortunately, due to long lines, the community is experiencing frustrating speeds and will have to either wait until 2021 for the R100 programme to deliver superfast broadband, or engage in the community fibre partnership. What support can the Scottish Government give in order to ensure that a faster and more cost-effective solution can be found for communities that are affected by long lines?

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I recognise the challenge that Maureen Watt has set before the Government. As she is aware, the matter is reserved, but we are trying to use our resources to tackle the issue. We recognise that it is a source of great frustration for the poeple who are affected.

We are deploying R100—I appreciate Ms Watt’s point that people are concerned about how long they are waiting for that. There is also gainshare funding through the deployment of the digital Scotland superfast broadband programme, which has continued through 2018-19 and will continue for the rest of 2019, extending coverage as far as possible. For communities that are still struggling with poor connectivity, there are interim solutions such as the UK Government’s better broadband subsidy and rural gigabit voucher schemes. They might not deliver services at 30Mbps or better, but they might provide an interim solution while R100 is being deployed.