Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) called on Ministers to address the digital divide that exists in terms of access to high speed broadband.
During Portfolio Questions, Mr McArthur raised with the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse the problems faced by many constituents in Orkney during lockdown due to the lack of access to a decent broadband service. Using the example of residents in Hoy, Mr McArthur sought assurances again that areas with the lowest levels of coverage, such as Orkney, will be prioritised for the roll out of the delayed R100 programme.
In response, Mr Wheelhouse said he was acutely aware of the importance of addressing the need to invest in digital infrastructure in places like Orkney and the frustrations caused to those trying to work, study or ‘home school’ without access to good quality broadband. Mr Wheelhouse offered an assurance that work will be carried out as part of the Scottish Government’s recovery plan to address poor coverage.
Afterwards, Mr McArthur commented:
“Lockdown has cruelly exposed the effects of the digital divide in Scotland. The contrasting experience of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ when it comes to accessing high speed broadband could not be more stark.
“Hoy is just one example of a community struggling to deal with the effects of poor broadband connections. I have been contacted by various constituents on the island over recent weeks, highlighting the difficulties they have faced trying to work or study from home. To add insult to injury, the poor service comes at full price.
“Sadly, the Scottish Government’s promise to deliver superfast broadband to every household in the country by 2021 is already well behind schedule. Ministers therefore need to prioritise the roll out to areas, like Orkney, which have the lowest level of coverage.
“The Islands Minister has given his assurance that he will work with me to address instances of poor coverage in Orkney. That is an offer I will gladly take up but Orkney needs a commitment from government that its broadband needs will be prioritised.”