POOR BROADBAND ACCESS in Moray and the Highlands remains a major issue despite boasts of success from the Scottish Government over the £146million deal with BT.
A Highlands and Islands MSP is so concerned at the level of complaints still arriving on a daily basis that she is calling for a meeting with the Deputy First Minister – but so far her attempts have been blocked by ‘diary pressures’.
For months insideMoray has been highlighting the plight of homes and businesses who are being left frustrated as ‘old technology meets new’.
While many parts of the region have been told that they can receive superfast broadband, they are left to learn the reality is that they can pay for such a service but then all too often be left with a sub-standard product.
BT Engineers have admitted to angry customers that the most common reason is that while exchanges have been updated to receive fibre-optic broadband, the lines from there to homes and business remain very much in the slow lane.
That has meant customers being charged for a new broadband product that they are unable to receive – and complaints are more often than not stonewalled.
Now Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has said that she hopes to have ‘definitive clarity’ soon on what areas will, and what areas will not, receive superfast broadband in the coming year via the UK and SNP Government’s much publicised ‘Next Generation’ rollout.
The £146m programme was announced in March 2013, following years of lobbying by Mrs Grant and her Scottish Labour colleagues to have improvements to infrastructure introduced in Moray and the Highlands and Islands.
The programme intended to bring access to fibre broadband to around 84% of Highlands and Islands homes and businesses by the end of 2016.
Mrs Grant however, continues to receive complaints from householders and business owners who are not receiving a superfast service, and are unsure if they will ever receive one under the current phase of the programme.
Swinney can’t find time to talk
The MSP told insideMoray: “Poor access to broadband continues to be one of the biggest issues in my mailbox. The programme, when announced, gave real hope for future improvements but, almost three years on, many people in the area still don’t know if they are going to benefit from the rollout next year.
“I have been contacted by two significant employers in the area, both of whom are saying inadequate access to broadband has led them to consider relocating their businesses. This is exactly what we are trying to avoid.
“I requested a meeting with John Swinney, the SNP’s Deputy First Minister, to emphasise to him the impact the uncertainty is having on householders and businesses but he has refused to meet with me due to ‘diary pressures’.
“It is not right that the very areas that have the most to gain from broadband are going to be amongst the last to be seeing improvements.
“It is a massive project to get everyone in Moray and the Highlands and Islands access to superfast broadband but it’s a project that John Swinney and his government need to realise is a game changer for people in the Highlands and Islands and they need to bring forward the answers and increased funding if that is what is required.”