Move to improve broadband services

PLANS to invest £18 million over three years towards improving broadband across Aberdeenshire will be debated by policy and resources councillors on Thursday.

Within the UK, rural Scotland’s broadband services are among the poorest and in Aberdeenshire, 17% of all addresses (19,374 premises) widely dispersed across more than 2,000 different postcodes, have a slow internet connection.

This is insufficient to undertake many essential applications such as remote working, tele-health and video streaming.

It is recognised that access to high speed broadband is essential to support a robust local economy and deliver educational benefits, as well as offering important social interactions particularly in remote and rural areas.

The Scottish Government has begun a procurement programme to deliver upgraded infrastructure capable of delivering much-improved broadband speeds to 75% of premises by the end of 2015.

Aberdeenshire Council recognises that the provision of a broadband service of at least 2Mbits to all premises should be a priority and will focus its resources in this area.

In addition, the council is keen to invest £2 million alongside Aberdeen City Council to implement an open access fibre optic cable around the western boundary of Aberdeen with a loop around Westhill. This will provide world class ultrafast services to the area and provide a significant economic advantage to businesses.

The aim is to ensure that telecommunications infrastructure in Aberdeenshire is genuinely world class that will, in turn drive economic growth and social wellbeing.

Any additional funds will be used to deliver world class broadband services to the Energetica corridor and add to the Scottish Government funding to improve broadband speeds across the rest of Aberdeenshire.

Council leader, Councillor Jim Gifford said: “This is an exciting and transformational project which will have huge benefits for our residents and businesses across Aberdeenshire. In many towns and cities with large populations and high demand, the private sector will put in place the infrastructure – but this simply isn’t the case in large parts of Scotland and in Aberdeenshire in particular. I think this is an exciting project where the council, working with the Scottish Government, can make a huge difference to communities.”

Deputy Leader Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes added: “Many of us take a fast and reliable broadband connection in our homes and businesses for granted. I welcome this proposal and am keen to see a priority given to those premises that have no access at the moment.”

Independent Co-ordinator Councillor Norman Smith explained: “Most households and businesses are becoming highly reliant on broadband services and we must take action on this issue now to ensure that Aberdeenshire remains an attractive place to live and to do business.”