Funding boost for rural broadband

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AN MSP has urged the Scottish Government to ensure the North-east will benefit from a £5 million fund for rural broadband.

The Community Broadband Scotland initiative will act as a one-stop-shop for rural community groups, providing them with information and advice to find solutions for broadband delivery in their areas.

From October, a new telephone helpline and website delivering advice and practical support will be made available, and, a dedicated team of staff will work on the ground to provide hands on assistance to groups in need.

North East Labour MSP Richard Baker has written to Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil, calling on him to make sure the area benefits from improved access to broadband.

Communities in Aberdeenshire will be eligible to apply for seed funding under the initiative to enable them to obtain greater access to the internet.

Mr Baker said: “While these funds are limited given the scale of investment which is required to improve access to broadband in rural areas, they are nevertheless welcome.

“For the North-east it is vital that a share of these funds is invested in this area given that Aberdeenshire has some of the greatest challenges in the whole of the country in terms of increasing access in the area to broadband services.

“There are exciting plans which have been developed locally to improve access to broadband and it is vital the Scottish Government backs these plans with investment.

“The local proposal to develop broadband has been with the Scottish Government for some months so this area is well placed to benefit from early investment, and that is why I am calling on the Scottish Government to ensure some of the funds announced result in improved access to broadband in the North-east.”

Mr Neil said: “Everyone recognises the importance of access to broadband to ensure that our local communities flourish.

“Broadband should not be considered a luxury in rural areas in Aberdeenshire; it is essential to enhance the quality of life and stimulate the growth of the local economy.

“This investment of £5 million, over the next three years, will see targeted support being provided to community projects to enable them to deliver broadband solutions for their areas.”

He added: “Increasing access to broadband is a key priority area for the Scottish Government, and we are currently progressing plans to develop a world class digital infrastructure by 2020.”