New research confirms that broadband users in the Borders have a greater need for speed than almost anyone else in the UK.
A Which? survey published this week reveals that the region’s average broadband speed of 9.3 megabits per second is the 10th slowest out of all 358 local authority areas in the UK, putting it in the bottom 3% nationwide.
That analysis, carried out by the consumer champion drawing on more than 275,000 customer speed tests, means that Borderers wanting to do banking online or watch, say, Oxton actor in the BBC One drama The Long Song or Netflix film Calibre have to put up with slower internet speeds than their neighbours in Dumfries and Galloway and south of the border in Northumberland.
The Which? tests reveal what sorts of speeds customers are actually getting, as opposed to official figures showing the maximum speeds possible, though even those latter figures confirm that about one in five homes in the Borders lacks an adequate broadband connection.
That’s not good enough in this day and age, according to Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont, and he wants to see urgent action taken to address the issue.
“For too long, residents in the Borders have had to put up with below-par broadband,” said the Conservative MP.
“Given that we are so close to the central belt, having one of the worst average speeds in the country is truly appalling.
“People will look at this table and wonder why we have slower speeds than neighbouring Northumberland or Dumfries and Galloway or really remote areas like the Western Isles.
“Customers and businesses need to see some action fast.
“Poor connectivity is undoubtedly holding our region back, and it’s a massive inconvenience for customers.
“This research also blows a hole in the Scottish Government’s excuses for their failure. Despite receiving more money to spend per head on broadband than any other part of the UK, rural parts of Scotland remain significantly behind other rural parts of the UK.”
Alex Neill, Which?’s managing director for home products and services, said: “It’s incredibly frustrating that so many Scots are still struggling to get a good broadband connection when so many of us rely heavily on the internet to carry out important everyday tasks.
“The Scottish Government must now press ahead with plans to provide 100% of the homes in Scotland with a decent broadband connection and make sure that no one is at a disadvantage because of where they live.”
South Scotland Labour list MSP Colin Smyth agrees, saying: “It is no surprise to people living in Borders that we are behind Scotland’s big cities and towns in terms of broadband speeds and mobile signal.
“People in the Borders often go to use their mobile and find that they have no signal on their network.
“This holds back local businesses and our wider economy.
“It is essential that the Scottish Government bring forward a detailed strategy for their much-talked-about R100 programme to ensure it is delivered in full and on time.
“The people of the Scottish Borders need to have clear expectations as previous digital schemes have only increased the digital inequality between rural and urban Scotland.
“Both the Scottish and UK governments must announce funding for the Borderlands growth deal that includes a number of initiatives to improve digital connections locally and provide a real boost for local communities, businesses and the economies.”
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame also wants to see progress made on improving broadband speeds.
“I absolutely recognise the importance of fast, reliable broadband to the Borders, and it is in recognition of this importance that, despite connectivity and broadband being matter reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government has invested £600m in the R100 programme to deliver superfast broadband to every home and business in Scotland by 2021,” said the SNP MSP.
“However, the UK Government needs to step up to the plate and properly fund its fair share. They currently fund just 3% of the total cost of R100, representing a dire lack of support for Scotland’s ambitions. Indeed, our rural economy committee has just recently called on them to up this amount, given that they are ultimately wholly responsible for broadband and connectivity.
“The UK Government have yet to announce their funding for the Borderlands inclusive growth deal, part of which could go towards funding broadband rollout in the South of Scotland.
“I hope they will heed these calls and make sure proper funding is in place to support Scotland’s ambitions for connectivity as it is essential to the Borders.”
This week’s Which? survey follows another by uSwitch published earlier this month revealing Halkburn Road in Galashiels to be the street with the 17th slowest broadband speed in the UK, at 0.466Mbps.
It also follows an Ofcom report in September showing that 17% of properties here have to make do with broadband speeds of less than 30Mbps.