Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has pledge to champion the fight to bring better, faster broadband to Skye.
After a meeting with North Skye Broadband, Ms Grant, the party’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Spokesperson confirmed she would be raising the island’ problems with senior Scottish Government officials next month.
A vocal campaigner to get superfast broadband to all parts of the Highlands and Islands, she was keen to learn details of the local project and its progress when she visited Skye.
Geoff Semler, of North Skye Broadband said: “It is great that our project is being recognised by public representatives. We welcome engagement with all who share our ambition of delivering futureproof robust broadband to Skye.
“We had expected the project to be much further ahead and it would be if it was simply down to the commitment, urgency and competence of the North Skye Broadband team. However, we have encountered endless delays in working with the appropriate public bodies through the public procurement process, both of which desperately need a serious shake up.
Ms Grant will be raising the matter when she discusses broadband issues in a meeting with Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary, Fergus Ewing, in September.
“I can sympathise with the community’s frustration about the continuing delay as the project team want to get on with planning,” explained Mrs Grant. “It is a very ambitious scheme and I can see why the community wants to plan for the future, with the prospect of creating a sustainable project which would bring long-term jobs.
“Although it may not be the lowest cost option initially the project may prove to be the best value for money in the long term so there might be scope for this to be treated as a pilot project, allowing the community to seek additional outside funding to achieve its goal, I wish the team well and congratulate the community for all its hard work.”
North Skye Broadband say they will deliver a network that is truly future proof in terms of technology and keeps pace with the ever increasing demand for broadband capacity. They are now seen as an essential part of the government’s ambitious strategy of delivering superfast broadband to 100% of premises by 2021.
They believe that without projects like North Skye Broadband, many areas in the Highlands and Islands would simply be facing the digital clearances.
And, with the scarcity of funds and the high cost of broadband provision in rural areas, they feel it is essential that any broadband project is designed to deliver a range of speeds from the lower end circa 30Mbps up to at least 1Gbps and is not simply a short term sticking plaster.
According to the group there is now a real opportunity to maximise the value from public funding and take the Rural Areas out of their current digital backwater and it is essential that Highland communities are on an equal footing with the rest of our country and cities.