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Lack of Fast Broadband Could be Fuelling Rural Depopulation in Scotland

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 (3:04 pm) - Score 692
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The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, Richard Lochhead, has told Scotland’s Rural Affairs Committee that there is “now evidence of people leaving rural communities to live in urban areas” due to a lack of good broadband connectivity.

At present Scotland looks set to benefit from an investment of £264 million (£106.7m of which will come from BT), which aims to make BT’s “high-speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network available to 85% of Scottish homes and businesses by the end of 2015 and around 95% by the end of 2017.

Unfortunately some areas, such as the remote Highlands and Islands region, only expect similar coverage to reach at least 84% by 2016.

Richard Lochhead said (Scotsman):

The Scottish Government is very keen to step in with Scottish resources to try and ensure that we do all we can to connect our more remote and rural communities to the 21st century. There is now evidence of people leaving rural communities to live in urban areas, so there is rural depopulation due to a lack of connectivity.

While you have traditional conversations about people leaving rural communities due to lack of access to higher education, affordable housing or employment, now there is an added factor where there is not good connectivity that can also lead to rural depopulation.

Some research I have seen in the last year or so has started to show some evidence of that, and that should concern us all.”

Lochhead doesn’t highlight what “evidence” he is remarking upon but it’s not inconceivable that poor broadband could be playing a contributing factor in the general movement of people from rural to urban areas. But equally it’s very difficult to gauge how much of an impact the government’s current strategy might have in being able to mitigate this movement.

The comments are perhaps more about the general desire for additional funding in order to improve the current targets and fill in any remaining notspots. Unsurprisingly the UK government has recently confirmed an additional pot of £250m to help meet a similar target of 95% UK superfast broadband coverage by 2017. Some of that is sure to find its way up to Scotland.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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4 Responses
  1. DTMark

    Something that concerns the elderly in our area (which is only 4 miles from the nearest town, but since many do not drive and there are no useful buses, it might as well be 400 miles away) is the idea that, in the future, the only people living in the area would be elderly people.

    So there’s nobody to help out, few drivers and there’s no shop, and so on. In the thick of winter some roads become impassable. Everyone else has moved away for work, since working from home is impossible without connectivity, as is ordering groceries online.

    Hence the section in the material for the broadband campaign “This doesn’t matter to me” which covered those topics; that in the future, our community would not be a desirable place to live if access to a key utility were unavailable.

    • zemadeiran

      Bagpipes?

    • DTMark

      Violins, maybe 😉

      This is Hampshire.

      Many of the elderly gather at the bottom of our lane just round the corner on a blind bend to wait for the one bus per week.

      If you didn’t watch what you were doing and expect them to be there, you could mow them all down in one fell swoop.

  2. We are based in a rural area of Southwest Scotland and fortunately for us, even though we cannot get FTTC or cable,the broadband speed here is pretty good. Having said that a lot of local businesses who have poor/ slow internet connection at their locations and whose business model benefits from fast broadband, use satellite, it offers speeds of 20Mb/s for £40 a month unlimited download, which it is not too expensive for a business.

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