MP keeps up pressure on broadband

Digital connectivity prospects look brighter for residents and businesses in the region struggling to obtain efficient broadband.

That was the assurance given to Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack after a recent meeting with Margot James, UK Minister for Digital and Creative Industries.

Mr Jack learned that almost 85-percent of premises in his constituency were within reach of a superfast broadband service, offering download speeds of 35 Mbps or more.

The local MP had raised concerns that in his largely rural constituency some small and medium sized businesses feared being left behind because of low broadband speeds.

In response, Ms James highlighted the £1.4 billion national programme of investment, led by the UK Government and supported by devolved and EU funds, which was driving forward work in constituencies including Dumfries and Galloway.

She also highlighted various UK-Government voucher schemes to assist businesses and residents in funding improved connectivity.

Perhaps, most significantly, by next year a Universal Service Obligation (USO) will be introduced meaning there will be a clear enforceable right across the UK for everyone to request a broadband speed of at least 10 Mbps.

The Minister said: "We will keep the speed and quality parameters under review to make sure that it keeps pace with consumers' evolving needs."

Mr Jack welcomed the Minister's response but pledged to continue monitoring the situation locally as reliable broadband remained a major issue for some constituents, particularly rural-based self-employed, home workers and small business operators.

He said: "The Universal Service Obligation historically worked well with postal, power and telephone services. 

"However. because of the remoteness of many parts of my constituency, I will be seeking assurances that the USO's 'reasonable cost threshold' does not prove too much of a barrier."