28 April 2014

Use Independence to Impose Better Broadband Provision Regulations - Stevenson

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for an extended Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband provision in rural areas with the powers independence will bring.

The Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP raised the issue of rural areas that will not be covered by the superfast broadband programme at General Questions in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Stevenson asked Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon if independence would provide the opportunity to impose a universal service obligation for broadband that would leave no areas of the country uncovered.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“Independence, in providing the opportunity to align policy, taxation funding and regulation, could help to help to deliver a more coherent overall approach to ensuring access to broadband right across the country. An extended universal service obligation (USO) for broadband could certainly play a part in that.”

She added that current EU rules require member states to set a minimum USO to all users at an affordable price, but independence would allow Scotland to go beyond the level currently set by the UK.

The digital Scotland superfast broadband programme, funded by £410 million of public and private sector investment, will extend access to superfast broadband for 85 per cent of premises by 2015-16 and more than 95 per cent by 2017-18.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“While the work currently being carried out by the Scottish Government and local authorities in partnership with others to extend and improve broadband coverage is very welcome, there are still rural areas which will have a less than desirable level of coverage. With the powers of independence, a Scottish Government of whatever political colour would be able to set a minimum Universal Service Obligation on the providers which goes beyond that in place currently under the UK Government which means many areas receive poor provision.”

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