MP welcomes £830m UK investment as campaigners fight for faster broadband

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A CAMPAIGNER behind a bid to improve internet coverage in Innerleithen and the surrounding area believes developers should be made to provide quicker broadband connections for new houses in the Borders, writes Kenny Paterson.

Brian McCrow of the Connect Cardrona group is appealing for people to take part in a British Telecom survey on Sunday in Innerleithen which could see the Tweeddale town and surrounding hamlets win fast fibre broadband by 2012.

He has already approached Scottish Borders Council’s planning department to discuss enforcing developers to supply fast broadband for new houses or business parks in the region.

However, so far, Mr McCrow has not had success persuading those at SBC to back his idea.

The Cardrona resident said: “I find it strange that the council says it cannot ask developers to commit to providing faster broadband when it would help increase the properties value.

“I know that the first question some people ask when considering buying a house in the region is ‘how fast is the broadband?’ and some are put off by the low speeds.

“The government and council really need to pull together to make this happen.”

Mr McCrow added: “We set up Connect Cardrona to push for fast broadband.

“Within parts of Innerleithen it is not bad but patches are not good and Cardrona is poor.

“I work from home and I am fortunate that I have one of the faster broadbands at one megabit as I known others that only a quarter of a megabit.

“Unless it gets quicker we will drop further and further behind the rest of the country.”

Mr McCrow made the comments on the same day as culture secretary Jeremy Hunt announced an £830million investment which the UK Government claim could see some households in the Borders access internet speeds of 24 megabits by 2014 or 2015.

But Mr McCrow said: “The devil is in the detail – I know the government has pledged to increase broadband speed across the UK to two megabits per second by 2015, but when compared to other countries such as Korea who have 100 megabits per second, we will really be falling behind.”

However, Borders MP Michael Moore is sure the broadband investment by the coalition government will help businesses in his constituency.

Mr Moore said: “The internet plays a vital role in our local and national economy, but it is clear that people living in rural areas such as the Borders continue to battle with poor access, slow connection speeds and outages in service.

“This announcement will be a boost to the local Borders economy and demonstrates the coalition government’s commitment to supporting rural communities which have often been overlooked in the roll-out of new technologies by previous governments.”

Councillor Vicky Davidson, SBC’s executive member for economic development, told us: “This is great news for the Borders and will be a real help to all our rural businesses and the increasing number of people who work from home.

“It is hugely important to the Borders that we are not disadvantaged by slower broadband speeds and higher connection charges, and this announcement of public funding to redress the balance can’t come soon enough.”

To vote on Sunday for superfast broadband to be introduced in Innerleithen, visit Smail’s Printing Works between 2pm and 6pm.