SNP MP WRITES TO UK GOVERNMENT ON MOBILE CONNECTIVITY IN SCOTLAND
UK NEEDS TO BE AS AMBITIOUS AS SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT
SNP MP Drew Hendry has written to the UK Government asking for a greater commitment and ambition on the issue of mobile connectivity in remote parts of Scotland.
Drew Hendry who is the MP for Inverness Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey has raised the issue at Westminster since his election last year because the rural economy depends on fast, reliable and future proofed digital infrastructure.
Drew Hendry MP , commented:
‘’I have written to Ed Vaizey the UK Government minister asking for similar robust and ambitious response to the issue of connectivity as we have had from the Scottish Government.
‘’Mobile connectivity is an area reserved to the UK Government and the Minister must listen to the voice of rural communities and take action to tackle digital inequity.
‘’This follows the recent announcement made by Scottish Government colleague Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity who has committed to a plan to improve and increase mobile connectivity in Scotland.
‘’I have raised the issue of mobile connectivity several times in Parliament, including in my maiden speech, pointing out the opportunities and yet, little has been little done by the UK Government to show ambition and leadership. Indeed an Ofcom report at the end of 2015 found that 43% of Highland roads still don’t have reliable text or voice coverage, never mind the 3G and 4G technologies that many areas of the UK take for granted.
“The UK Government presides over a mobile coverage licencing regime, which has allowed mobile companies to reap the commercial benefits of the large urban areas at the expense of rural communities. This needs to stop and it can be achieved by ensuring that future technology licences are drawn up to specify that rural communities have priority for the role out of new provision.
“5G is still in development but the technology with be ready to roll out soon enough. The UK Government has the opportunity to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated and that the opportunities for rural communities to prosper are given equal footing to the large cities.’’
Text of letter can be read here
Further to the announcement made by Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Minister for Rural Economy and Connectivity, that the Scottish Government has committed to a plan to improve and increase connectivity in Scotland, I write to urge you to match this commitment to ensure that rural communities are no longer at the back of the queue for new technology deployment.
The Scottish Government’s intention to use its powers to guarantee people benefit from better mobile coverage is ambitious, and supports the aim of delivering world class digital connectivity in Scotland. As an MP for a large rural community and as the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Digital Economy, I very much welcome this commitment to help tackle the issue of mobile coverage.
As I wrote in a previous letter to you there is a significant way to go to achieve full coverage in the Highlands. Indeed, according to Ofcom’s Connected Nation report published in December 2015, 43% of Highland roads still don’t have reliable text or voice coverage. The statistics get even starker when you consider 3G and 4G technologies that many areas of the UK take for granted.
You will know that this is an issue I have raised in often in parliament. A key way this can be achieved is by ensuring that future technology licences are drawn up to specify that rural communities have priority for the role out of new provision. Mobile connectivity licensing is, after all, a matter reserved for the UK Government.
Both the UK Government and Ofcom have a duty to ensure that the UK-legislative and regulatory environment supports mobile deployment in Scotland and the other nations of the UK, therefore, I ask for a similar robust and ambitious response from the UK Government to welcome this mobile connectivity plan and to work with the Scottish Government on this very important issue.
Drew Hendry MP