Is slow broadband holding us back?

It appears the UK and Scottish Governments are at loggerheads, as seems to happen all too often. This time it is over the delivery of superfast broadband.

The Scottish Government has been telling the world how well it is progressing with its Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, with a claim that 95% of premises are now able to receive “superfast” broadband, which is defined as download speeds of at least 24 Mb.

But Simon Johnston of the Daily Telegraph reports that Matt Hancock, the UK Government’s Digital Minister has decided to give future funding for fibre broadband to local authorities, rather than the Scottish Government. This, he reports, is because the Digital Minister is “fed up” with the SNP’s “poor performance”.

Is rural superfast broadband being delivered?

When the DSSB was launched I recall a lot being made of how this programme would bring superfast broadband to rural premises that might otherwise not be commercially viable.

With £157 million of public money aimed at delivering this rural broadband programme, we waited to see trucks with drums of fibre rolling out from our local exchange to deliver this promise.

We waited and waited.

I can still remember the shock when we discovered that there never had been any intention to replace the elderly copper cables that connected our house – and so many like us – to the telephone exchange.

We’re not even that remote. Just a mile from Kintore and ten miles from Scotland’s third city, Aberdeen.

Eventually we heard that our line had been “upgraded”. I put that in inverted commas because my dictionary is quite clear that “upgrade” implies improvement. But, this upgrade delivered no apparent benefit for the user.

The problem is that anything over 1,200 metres of copper cable negates any speed benefit from fibre connection. So, while we are now connected to a fibre-enabled box we cannot benefit. That sounds like a box-ticking exercise.

Would local authorities have delivered rural superfast broadband better than the Scottish Government?

It’s hard to tell. But I do know a number of councillors who are far from happy, feeling that the promise to connect rural premises has not been delivered as they had expected.

So, what are the prospects for those of us who live beyond the reach of superfast fibre?

Well, there are currently no plans to connect us to superfast. None. Zero.

The only hope seems to be the Scottish Government’s promise that all premises should be able to connect to superfast broadband by 2021.

Four years seems like a long wait when your broadband is delivering only a fraction of the UK Government’s 10Mb household broadband minimum speed.
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