SNP: UK’S broad­band plans ‘un­fair’ to Scots

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Scot­tish MPS have called for more broad­band fund­ing from the UK Gov­ern­ment, claim­ing Scot­land is be­ing left out of cur­rent schemes, and Scot­tish cus­tomers will end up sub­si­dis­ing new ser­vices else­where in the UK.

They have crit­i­cised the Gov­ern­ment’s uni­ver­sal ser­vice obli­ga­tion (USO), which gives cit­i­zens in “el­i­gi­ble” premises the le­gal right to de­mand speeds of at least 10Mbps.

To fund this pro­gramme, which re­quires de­liv­er­ing broad­band to many re­mote ar­eas, ISPS are likely to pass on the cost to cus­tomers through higher bills. This has an­gered the SNP, which says Scots will end up pay­ing more for their broad­band even though no premises in Scot­land are el­i­gi­ble for the USO.

Fer­gus Ewing, the SNP’S Ru­ral Econ­omy Sec­re­tary, called this “grossly un­fair”. He wrote to Cul­ture Sec­re­tary Matt Han­cock say­ing: “If ex­cluded from the USO, peo­ple in Scot­land would get noth­ing back de­spite con­tribut­ing fund­ing”.

Mr Ewing claimed the scheme was “in­dica­tive of the UK Gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to broad­band roll­out thus far, which has been to ig­nore the needs of Scot­land”, leav­ing large ru­ral parts of the coun­try “com­pletely dis­con­nected”.

He asked Mr Han­cock to in­cor­po­rate the USO with the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment’s ‘Reach­ing 100%’ pro­gramme, which pledges £600m of pub­lic funds to de­liver 30Mbps speeds to all premises by 2021.

In re­sponse, a UK gov­ern­ment spokes­woman said the USO will “ben­e­fit cit­i­zens across the UK”, and en­sure ev­ery­one “has a le­gal right to an af­ford­able, high-speed con­nec­tion no mat­ter where they live or work”. She added that the 10Mbps fig­ure is ex­pected to in­crease over time.

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