The Scottish Rural Parliament launched its first campaign last week choosing to focus on a key issue for rural communities – digital connectivity.
The Rural Parliament seeks a review of the failing Mobile Infrastructure Project and a quicker response from telecoms giant BT about which communities will receive superfast broadband.
Digital connectivity was the most frequently raised issue by rural communities during the lead up to the first Rural Parliament in November last year.
Poor digital connectivity is viewed as having a serious negative effect on business, safety, health care, social and family connections, education and is cited as a reason for the out-migration of young people from some rural areas.
It is the view of the Scottish Rural Parliament that excellent 4G mobile signal and superfast broadband are essential services which should be available for all.
Chair, John Hutchison, said: “Broadband and mobile phone signal are now essential services for rural communities, without which our businesses and communities cannot thrive.
“This has been recognised by both the Scottish and UK Governments who have commissioned work to improve broadband and mobile signal availability respectively.
“Unfortunately there are serious concerns in both cases about the speed with which service improvements are being made. We are being left further and further behind urban areas and other countries in Europe the longer we have to wait.
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme aims to provide fibre broadband infrastructure to areas where commercial infrastructure providers have chosen not to develop.
Late last year the £410M Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership was rolled out and brought better service speeds to 35 locations ranging from Macduff and Banchory to Dyce and Culter.
However many smaller villages and towns across Deeside and the wider Aberdeenshire are still without the service.
Combined with current commercial roll-out plans, 95% of premises in Scotland should have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2017 and 85% by the end of 2015.
Community Broadband Scotland has been set-up to focus on providing broadband solutions in the areas that will not benefit from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollouts.
Until BT confirms where the roll-out of superfast broadband will extend to however, communities are unable to work with CBS to take action themselves.
The Scottish Rural Parliament has called on BT to act quickly to confirm the reach of their superfast programme.
The Scottish Rural Parliament asks that those who share their concerns sign their two petitions which call for broadband and mobile signal improvements. The petitions and more information can be found here: http://www.scottishruralparliament.org.uk/digital-campaign.