Gavin Newlands, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, has said there are unanswered questions from the UK government on their announced deal with BT to provide broadband, with concerns over the benefits to rural Scotland and whether the proposals are the best deal for the taxpayer.
BT has offered to provide the infrastructure for 99% of premises in the UK to get broadband speeds of at least 10 megabits per second by 2020. Gavin said: “There are some important questions that need answered urgently about this deal. It’s not clear if all of Scotland is going to benefit from the broadband roll-out or what the time scales for the more remote communities are.
This is an issue which is particular importance to the rural areas and villages in Renfrewshire and we need to see the details from the UK government urgently.
“It is not just the remote Highland and island communities that lack access to fast and reliable broadband as areas such as Houston and Bridge of Weir in Renfrewshire also need to gain to access to superfast broadband and we need clarity on when the service is going to improve.
“We also need answers on its potential impact on the Scottish Government’s own commitment to provide access to superfast broadband to 100 per cent of Scotland’s homes and businesses by 2021.
“We also don’t know if this represents the best value for the public, when there has been no specification, no tender, no other providers involved – the Tories have just enabled BT to maintain its monopoly in this market and we do not know if this is a good deal for the taxpayer.”
Photo Credit: Adrian Malec
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By Monica Gibson
RESIDENTS at a new housing development in Uplawmoor claim they are living in “the estate that broadband forgot”. Last month, we told how communities in Barrhead, Giffnock and Uplawmoor are among those to benefit from the ?428 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme. However, people living at MacTaggart and Mikel’s Mure Park development have said misfortune – and a series of loopholes – has left them in the “Dark Ages” when it comes to getting online.
One resident, who asked not to be named, told the Barrhead News: “I have moved into a modern house in a brand new development but there has been no broadband provision.
“I thought we would be connected to the Uplawmoor exchange but the quirk is that, when the Scottish Government signed off the funding for broadband in 2012, our postcode did not exist, so they did not cater for Mure Park.
“And there is another loophole that we have fallen victim to, as Openreach said they would provide broadband for developments that have 200 houses but we only have 39 houses, so we missed out.
“In 2016, Openreach changed the requirement to only 30 houses but, as our development was already complete, we are not eligible for that either.”
The connection at Mure Park is said to be so poor that even watching a video online is a tricky task.
“Some of the owners had planned to work from home but, in reality, they are having to alternate because you can’t have two people working online at the same time,” said the concerned resident.
“The estate is almost full now and I have noticed the connection slowing down yet further.
“We contacted Mactaggart & Mickel but they don’t install broadband as standard. They worked out it would now cost ?25,000 but that is a cost they’re not willing to take on board.
“I can understand their point of view but it puts the onus on us to sort out the problem and cough up the cash.
“We have a good relationship with the developer but the situation isn’t ideal. We’re living in shiny new houses but are cut off when there are 100-year-old houses up the road and they have the superfast connection. It is bizarre to say the least and you can’t help but feel a bit hard done by.”
Craig Ormond, a director of Mactaggart and Mickel Homes, said the company has a strong reputation for customer service. He added: “The Mure Park development in Uplawmoor village was planned in 2013, when the digital landscape was less developed than it is now.
“We make no mention of broadband in our customer marketing materials or in the pre-reservation meeting information that every client receives before they make a commitment to reserve one of our new homes.
“This is not included in the specification because we recognise that most customers prefer to make that choice themselves depending on their own requirements.
This is the case for all of our developments.
“We understand that some residents are disappointed with their broadband speeds at Mure Park, so we assisted them to identify upgrade options from Openreach.
“It is now for the residents themselves to decide whether they wish to progress with this work.”
HUNDREDS more homes and businesses across Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire are now able to connect to high-speed fibre broadband. Communities in Johnstone, Renfrew, Paisley, Barrhead, Giffnock and Uplawmoor are among those to benefit from the ?428 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme. Most of the latest local connections to be upgraded were previously ‘Exchange Only’ (EO) lines – an historic legacy of the copper network once thought to be out of the reach of high-speed fibre services.
Such lines run directly from the exchange to homes and business premises, bypassing the usual roadside cabinets which are a vital part of the fibre roll-out. Engineers worked out an innovative way to integrate these lines into the fibre network, laying hundreds of metres of new cables to reroute lines through extra roadside cabinets. However, people need to sign up with an internet service provider, as upgrades are not automatic.
Fibre broadband offers fast and reliable broadband connections at speeds of up to 80Mbps.
Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, said: “More than 90 per cent of Scotland now has fibre broadband available, thanks to both the programme and commercial coverage.
“The Scottish Government is committed to delivering 100 per cent superfast broadband access across Scotland by 2021 and plans are currently being developed to ensure that this is the case.
“During the summer months, our existing programme will continue to advance across the country, bringing high-speed broadband to new rural communities.”
Robert Thorburn, BT Scotland’s fibre broadband director, added: “The Digital Scotland fibre roll-out has continued to make good progress over the last six months.
“Thanks to engineering innovation, thousands of people on lines once thought to be incapable of carrying a superfast service are now able to upgrade to higher speeds.
“And with strong take-up rates set to drive the reinvestment of millions of pounds back into the network, we look forward to continuing work on this huge and challenging infrastructure project to benefit the people of Scotland.”
People can visit the website at www.scotlandsuperfast.com to find out if they can get a fibre-based service.