Delays to the rollout of a broadband programme in Highland Perthshire has been likened to a potential “digital Highland Clearance”.
Perth and Kinross Councillor John Duff expressed his frustration at news the many areas will not be included in the R100 programme – which aims to provide superfast broadband to homes and businesses.
Councillor Duff, who represents the Highland ward, said the issue affects most of the area.
‘Digital Highland Clearance’
The local representative believes the issue makes working from home more difficult for residents and businesses in the area.
He said: “Many small businesses desperately trying to operate from home can’t continue with the current extremely slow levels of broadband service.
“Following a review of the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme, provisional data from BT’s Northern contract, which covers Highland Perthshire, appears to show that thousands of properties still retain the £5,000 main voucher scheme.
“This suggests that these properties will not be included in the national R100 scheme and that they will be expected to find an alternative broadband provider other than BT.
“Excluded areas so far appear to include Glenylon, out of town properties along the Tay valley, those around Loch Rannoch, along the A9 between Kindallanchan and Pitlochry, a considerable number of premises around the town of Pitlochry itself and many of the small hamlets and dwellings scattered throughout Highland Perthshire.”
He added: “This would be a disaster for the area – potentially a digital Highland Clearance.”
Gaps in coverage
Figures showed that 94.3% of premises across Scotland had an internet connection of 30Mbps or higher, compared with just 42.2% nine years prior.
Increase in superfast coverage
On approaching the Scottish Government for comment, a spokesperson referred The Courier to online information about the R100 initiative.
Information on the Scottish Government website shows superfast coverage of 30Mbps and above in Perth and Kinross increased from 39.3% in 2014 to 87.4% last month, a rise of 48.1%.
In response to Councillor Duff’s concerns, Jim Fairlie, standing for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, said: “The SNP has already delivered a sea of change in connectivity for Perth and Kinross.
“This is a reserved issue but using its limited powers, the SNP government invested £579 million to roll out fibre broadband in rural Scotland.”