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Target broadband cash at remote areas – Scott

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott is calling for changes to the way funding for high speed broadband is allocated to ensure improvements are directed towards islanders facing the poorest connections.

Following a meeting with Community Broadband Scotland, Scott said any future money ought to be directed towards providing for the hardest to reach customers “rather than chasing a flat population percentage target”.

Earlier this month BT Scotland director Brendan Dick visited the islands to reveal that Lerwick was in line to receive high speed broadband – connections up to 80mbps – by September.

Customers in most other Shetland communities can expect to be hooked up to superfast broadband in 2015 and 2016. BT says it is confident of exceeding its initial target of hooking up 76 per cent of isles households.

However at a digital forum meeting in Lerwick two weeks ago, Dick heard criticism from those in the outlying isles and remoter parts of the mainland who fear being left behind.

BT Scotland director Brendan Dick

Scott described the divide between those with good broadband access and those without , particularly in remote communities, was “simply unacceptable”.

“People in Shetland are now increasingly more reliant on high speed broadband for doing business, accessing services and communicating with family and friends across the country and the world,” he said.

“Whilst news of further funding for high speed broadband in Shetland is certainly welcome, it simply does not seem right that those who currently have a poor service, or no service at all, should be left further behind.”

He called for priority to be given to ensuring remote areas are able to access a “decent and reliable” service and that “any further investment… be directed towards helping the hardest to reach customers rather than the broad percentage target which just won’t do the job in many isolated areas across the Northern Isles”.