Economic recovery ‘depends on better broadband’

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The economic recovery of Argyll and Bute needs ‘high quality’ digital connectivity because of the reliance on online access during the pandemic.

Despite businesses, councils and communities using the essential service during  lockdown, it still suffered from gaps in ‘quality and coverage,’ according to Islay-based councillor Alastair Redman, policy lead for economic growth at Argyll and Bute Council.

He said a ‘reliable network’ had been essential for the local authority to provide vital services but gaps need to be addressed ‘as quickly as possible’.

‘It is vital that further funding is delivered to enhance the digital infrastructure in Argyll and Bute to not only help the economic recovery after Covid-19 but to secure long-term prosperity for the area,’ said councillor Redman.

The council is working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in Westminster. This is towards funding to extend full fibre into some of the most rural and unconnected communities.

In addition, as part of a wider funding bid, Argyll and Bute is submitting an application to a DCMS competition – 5G Create, which sees up to £30 million of government funding  available ‘to explore and develop’ new use-cases and 5G technical capabilities.

Projects of between £250,000 to a maximum of £5 million can be funded, if successful.

The council does not have responsibility for delivering digital infrastructure across the area but said it ‘actively engages’ with those responsible.

Donald Cameron, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has said the region risks being left behind other parts of Scotland due to legal problems threatening the roll-out of superfast broadband to the region.

He said communities were ‘at risk’ of being kept in a ‘digital stone age’.