A progress report on the £428 million Digital Scotland Supefast Broadband rollout project is short on facts when it come to the Borders.
The report highlights the number of premises now connected to the new network - 900,000 across Scotland - and in regions where the figures are good, percentages are given. For the Borders we are told that “more premises can now upgrade to faster broadband”.
A clue to what “more premises” amounts to is given by Robert Thorburn, fibre partnership director for Openreach in Scotland. He said: “Some of the latest properties passed by the new network – including dozens in the Abbey St. Bathans, Chirnside, Lempitlaw, Norham, Ashkirk, Hawick and Stichill exchange areas – can now connect to the most reliable and fastest residential broadband available as we’re using more Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) to help these harder-to-reach homes join the digital revolution.”
Latest data shows one in five homes in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk are still without access to superfast broadband and Borders MP John Lamont said it is time to ‘step-up’ progress connecting harder to reach parts of the region.
The recently published Communications Market Report from Ofcom, found that across the UK, 64% of adults say the internet is an essential part of their lives. People are increasingly looking to access the internet on the move and Ofcom found that 78% of UK residents own a smartphone.
The report also finds that 41% of people say being online enables them to work more flexibly, and 75% say it keeps them closer to friends and family.
Evidence, said John Lamont, that broadband is an essential utility and also key to tackling social exclusion in rural areas like the Borders.
“As connectivity becomes increasingly vital to everyday life, it becomes more and more important to step up progress to connect the one in five homes in the Borders still without decent broadband,” said Mr Lamont.
“This report from Ofcom tells us that the internet is well and truly an essential utility. That is why the UK Government is right to seek to introduce a Universal Service Obligation. Just like everyone has a legal right to water, gas and electricity, everyone should have a legal right to broadband.
“Increasingly services are found online and if people don’t have a decent connection, they cannot access the same level of support.”