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Members' Business — S6M-13640 Beatrice Wishart: Rural and Island Digital Connectivity Challenges

Thursday 27 June 2024 3:08 PM


That the Parliament notes with concern that many households in rural and island Scotland face challenges regarding digital connectivity; understands that Ofcom reports that 25% of Shetland households have broadband speeds of less than 30Mbps; further understands that, despite the initial Scottish Government ambition to connect every household to superfast broadband by 2021 through the R100 programme, it is now estimated that full R100 rollout will not be achieved until 2028; notes the reported intention of telecommunications companies to retire the copper phone line network and replace phone lines with digital connections using fibre broadband; understands that this replacement is due by 2027; notes with concern reports that many households are unable to switch to digital phone lines due to lack of broadband connectivity in their area, which, it understands, can cause particular problems for customers with healthcare devices that use the phone line, or those who live in areas with poor mobile phone signal; expresses its disappointment that rural and island households are facing such difficulties, particularly in light of increasingly frequent adverse weather events, which, it understands, put rural and island households at risk of power outages; considers that poor 4G signal in rural and island areas has negative implications for businesses and education; understands that many households in Scotland are unable to be connected to smart meters due to poor connectivity of the smart meter network in their areas, with latest figures showing that less than 10% of households in Scotland’s island groups have smart meters; further understands that many of these households still use legacy radio teleswitch meters, with Scotland having a higher proportion of these meters than other parts of the UK; notes with concern that the radio teleswitch signal is due to be switched off by 30 June 2025, which, it believes, could leave households stuck paying higher tariffs; further notes the belief that a digital divide is detrimental, and notes the calls for both of Scotland’s governments to work together to address the digital connectivity challenges facing households in rural and island Scotland.

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