Connectivity woes!

Left to right : Steve & Leesa Craig (Forest Products Ltd), Helen & Drew Riach (ADR Gardens & Landscapes Ltd)
Left to right : Steve & Leesa Craig (Forest Products Ltd), Helen & Drew Riach (ADR Gardens & Landscapes Ltd)

A campaign is under way to improve connectivity within a Donside community following a business meeting in Banchory last week.

A website has been launched to encourage users in Midmar and other rural areas to describe the problems they face when connecting to broadband and mobile phone services.

The Piper reported last week that a number of local businesses had highlighted mobile and broadband signals as a concern at a Federation of Small Businesses event at Raemoir House Hotel on April 17.

Midmar resident Helen Riach, who uses the internet to connect with clients of her gardening and landscaping business, got in touch with the Piper after reading the article and described the problems she faces on a day-to-day basis.

She said: “The signal we receive just now is almost unbearable and a lot of people are becoming increasingly frustrated.

“We tried several times to get landline broadband, and despite BT assurances, each time it failed. Satellite gives us what we need, but it’s expensive, and with a granite cottage the wireless set-up is a disaster.”

Mrs Riach, who has two children, says connectivity is a crucial part of her family’s life.

“We have to have broadband for our business and our children but it’s been a problem for us since we moved here nearly seven years ago,” she said. “Our house sits in a big black hole which means that we also get no mobile connection.”

Steve Craig, who owns a log cabin and summerhouse company with his wife in Echt, was instrumental in starting up the website campaign.

He deals with customers from all over Europe and broadband is a vital part of his business.

Mr Craig said: “We live just outside the village of Echt and basically we are the last house from the Dunecht exchange that is capable of getting any sort of connection.

“The lines that comes to our house will just connect at a speed of 135kpbs, in other words just a little more than a dial-up modem used to be.

“In our business we deal with German, Dutch, Lithuanian, Polish and Finnish companies, our life is spent emailing and Skyping the various factories we deal with, and broadband is obviously a major requirement to our business.

“I know I am not alone in any of these complaints, I know many people with little or no service of any sort. It is totally unacceptable that in this day and age there is not a better solution.”

In contrast, users can get up to 20Mbs speeds in Westhill, around nine miles away from Midmar.

BT also upgraded connections in Banchory and Culter last month to offer similar broadband speeds to Westhill.

A BT spokesman said: “We continue to invest heavily in our network, bringing speed improvements to customers nationwide, but we are aware that a small number of customers are hampered by the speed of their service and we are actively looking at alternative solutions for these locations.

“The Scottish Government are due to make an announcement shortly on how they plan to spend the digital infrastructure fund of £250 million and we await their announcement with interest.”

Aberdeenshire Council has vowed to fund connectivity improvements over the next few years.

A spokeswoman said: “Due to the importance the Council places on Aberdeenshire being a competitive and attractive location in which to live and work, we have agreed, in principle, to make up to £18million of match funding available over four years to improve digital connectivity across the area. This is dependant on Scottish Government plans for improving broadband too. In addition, we are working with the Cairngorms National Park Authority on a ‘hard to reach area’.”

The website can be found at: myruralbroadband.net