Saturday, 26 November 2016 06:41

UK GOVERNMENT’S digital strategy will leave rural communities lagging behind

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The SNP Digital Economy spokesperson has said the UK government must revise its approach on digital investment as rural areas are at real risk of being left behind.

Calum Kerr MP, who will be leading for the SNP on the Digital Economy Bill, said the failures in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement risk seeing investment in high quality fibre networks centred in urban areas while rural areas will be left with speeds that will be “obsolete within a decade.”

Calum Kerr has welcomed the investment but has called on the UK government to revise its proposed Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband so that it will encourage providers to “push fibre further.”

Calum Kerr MP, the SNP’s Digital spokesperson, commented:

“The Chancellor’s announcement may represent a welcome investment in high quality fibre networks, but its benefits are only likely to be felt in urban centres. The government recognises that fibre infrastructure is the future, but it seems reluctant to accept that rural consumers also want to be part of the future too.

“Many are looking at the government’s proposed Universal Service Obligation in the Digital Economy Bill and are, quite rightly, unable to fathom why 10 megabits per second is good enough for some consumers in rural areas, when the networks of the future are likely to offer speeds at least ten times that fast.

“Across the UK, communities, councils and devolved administrations trying to achieve superfast speeds are backed into a corner due to this government’s clear lack of ambition on rural connectivity.

“They need to resolve to take bold steps to redress the digital divide – and resolve to push fibre further.

“The Scottish Government have made a commitment to reach 30 megabits by 2021, and a flexible Universal Service Obligation (USO)—particularly a voucher scheme, rather than a monetary or contractual agreement with providers —could help them to deliver.

“But if the USO is simply passed over to providers who are willing to provide 10 megabits to everybody by 2020, I am afraid that we will end up with fibre for the few, while rural areas are expected to make do with speeds that will be obsolete within a decade.”