Super-fast rollout 'could widen digital divide' header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

The government's project to roll out super-fast broadband across the UK has been hailed as a means of addressing the 'digital divide' that exists between urban and rural communities across the nation. 

However, could the scheme actually be making the problem worse rather than solving it? 

This has been suggested by Tavish Scott, MSP for Shetland, who has discussed the issue with 

"The investment of public money in super-fast broadband, far from narrowing the digital divide, may only serve to exacerbate it," he told the website.

Mr Scott said he has continually campaigned for public money to be spent on improving connectivity in the hardest-to-reach areas, rather than the "low-hanging digital fruit of towns and cities".

"Many rural and island communities have not yet been given a date as to when any improvements will take place. Worse still, there are households and businesses in very isolated parts of the country with no broadband service at all," the Scottish politician added. 

As the MSP for Shetland, Mr Scott has first-hand experience of the problems he has highlighted. Broadband services have long proved unreliable in the region, with a number of outages being reported over the past two years. 

The area has since had fibre broadband installed, with 4,000 homes and businesses in Lerwick, Quarff and Sumburgh receiving access to the technology.

However, Mr Scott's comments suggest there are still many rural communities across the UK that are in desperate need of improved internet access. 

One part of the country where this has proved a problem is Shropshire. Last week, the Shropshire Star revealed local campaign group Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Rural Broadband has severed its ties with the government-funded Connecting Shropshire scheme.

Spokesperson for the organisation Patrick Cosgrove said the campaigners were disappointed that the project had failed to prioritise those areas with the slowest broadband or no connectivity at all.