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Parliamentary Debates and Questions

S5W-10536: McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 1 August 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the recent report by the British Infrastructure Group of MPs, which states that eight of the 20 worst performing areas in the UK for broadband are in Scotland.

Answered by: Fergus Ewing 28 August 2017

The Broadband 2.0 report that was published by the British Infrastructure Group of MPs in July 2017 raises some interesting issues, particularly around consumer protection in relation to broadband. However, the analysis of speeds which informed the league table of worst performing areas is somewhat flawed, in that it is primarily based on data gathered from consumer speed tests not actual broadband availability. As a result, the figures reflect the speeds available as part of individual consumers’ packages; not the top speed that may be available on faster, more expensive packages.

Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations reports set out information on both broadband availability and take-up across Scotland. Their 2016 report highlighted that, while there is still more to do in terms of extending coverage in our more rural authorities, superfast broadband coverage in Scotland increased by 14% over the last 12 months – the largest increase of any of the UK nations

Telecoms, like defence and foreign affairs, is a matter reserved to the UK Government, meaning UK Ministers have the power to force broadband infrastructure providers to do more, particularly in rural areas. However, to date, they have chosen not to do so and their emerging plans for a Universal Service Obligation for broadband fall well short of our ambitions. That is why the Scottish Government has committed to delivering 100% superfast broadband access by 2021.