Broadband u-turn risks abandoning rural communities, claims Carmichael

The Northern Isles could lose out if the Westminster government walks away from a commitment to deliver broadband to all areas – including the most remote.

Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Dave Donaldson

That is the view of Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael who warned this week that rural communities must not be forgotten.

He was speaking after the publication of a government consultation document on the definition of a universal service for broadband and said that up to a million households were at risk of being “abandoned” by the government u-turn.

The consultation document states that providing 100 per cent coverage does not “represent value for money”.

That is not a view shared by Mr Carmichael, who said: “A universal service obligation for broadband is a good idea, but they miss the point by trying to set it at less than 100 per cent provision.

“They also appear to have lost any sense of urgency as they do not anticipate having this in place until 2020. It is pretty clear that they have chosen to listen to the big telecoms companies rather than the communities concerned.

“Once you depart from 100 per cent coverage alarm bells should always start ringing in the isles. Viewed from London or Edinburgh to talk about 95 per cent may seem reasonable but in the isles past experience tells us that we are more likely to be part of the five per cent that is left behind.”

Mr Carmichael said a million homes in rural areas of the country would not have access to the promised 10Mbps of broadband by 2017.

Those “have-nots” in the unfortunate five per cent who were deemed unable to receive broadband had just been abandoned by the government u-turn, he said.

Referring to the Tories’ success in last week’s Scottish elections which saw the party replace Labour as the largest opposition group, Mr Carmichael added: “Last week we saw the Conservatives attract significant support in rural Scotland. I wonder if those people who voted Tory in Perthshire, Aberdeenshire, the Borders and The Highlands realised that they were voting for this sort of treatment.”


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