MSP contacts UK Government Minister over broadband subsidy



28 July 2017

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has written the Westminster Government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister to ask about the future of a subsidy which is helping an Inverness-shire community tap in to high speed broadband.

Stratherrick and Foyers Community Trust this month raised the issue of the future of the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme with Mrs Grant when she popped in on the group’s drop-in session in Gorthleck.

The trust plans to spread high speed broadband across the district and has agreed a scheme with company Cromarty Firth Wireless Networks to allow households to get on-line by a series of relay points. The organisation’s drop-in session gave more information to locals about its new scheme.

However, trust members are anxious because the future of the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme, developed by the UK Government, is unclear past the end of this year.

“Remote and rural areas are still at the back of the queue for connections and that more than half of homes in some parts of rural Scotland are still struggling with very slow internet speeds,” said Mrs Grant.

“That’s why congratulations must go to the trust and local people for taking matters into their own hands and getting their own plan off the ground.

“Under the Government’s scheme, £350 is available to people to help tap into to better broadband but if it’s no longer there after December 2017 that would hit the money available to Stratherrick and Foyers local scheme.

“With only months to go, I’m asking UK Minister Matt Hancock if the subsidy will be extended and if not what other cash incentives will be made available.

“Rural areas need broadband to compete in the global market place and to safeguard against population decline.”

The Government scheme sets out to provide access to subsidised broadband installation to homes and businesses that are unable to access a broadband service with a download speed of at least 2 Mb per second.

Households and businesses that are eligible to take advantage of the scheme will be provided with a unique code that will cover most of the cost of the installation and commissioning of a basic broadband service including any necessary equipment. The code does not have a specific fixed value but when used to obtain a basic broadband service installation/commissioning from a registered supplier, will reduce the total cost by up to £350.