Column: Broadband Connectivity Vital for Stirling


Categories: Column, News

Column from Alyn Smith MP, for local newspaper the Stirling Observer

In today’s interconnected world, having access to reliable broadband is not a luxury; it’s a fundamental necessity. I had the privilege of leading a Westminster Hall Debate on broadband connectivity this week, and it underscored the significance of this issue. Stirling boasts some of the nation’s fastest broadband speeds, but it also grapples with some of the slowest. Such disparities are not uncommon in regions like ours, which blend rural and urban landscapes. Sadly, rural areas often find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide, struggling to access fast broadband.

While telecommunications is a reserved matter, the Scottish government has been proactive in this domain, allocating ample funding to improve connectivity. Nevertheless, challenges persist.

Broadband is no longer a “nice to have” amenity; it’s the fourth utility we need for paying bills, shopping, managing finances, and working from home. With rural banks and post offices closing, the need for fast, accessible broadband becomes even more pronounced. In an increasingly interconnected world, the pandemic laid bare the essential role of high-speed internet. We’ve turned a page on the march towards a digital society, but the decisions we take today can still shape how inclusive and equal that future becomes.

The UK government’s Project Gigabit sets ambitious targets: 85% of the UK should have access to fast broadband by 2025, with the remaining 15% connected by 2030. However, Scotland faces distinctive challenges, given its vast landmass and numerous remote areas, including our island communities. I represent a significant portion of that 15%, and I believe we need swifter progress and a more concentrated effort on rural areas.

In Stirling, I’ve been actively engaged in addressing this issue. I’ve advocated for fast broadband in the Eastern Villages of the constituency and recently met with Lothian Broadband Networks in Cowie to witness their crucial work firsthand. I also had discussions with Virgin in Bridge of Allan to understand how they are enhancing internet access in the region. Whilst much work remains to be done in Stirling, where many rural areas still suffer from inadequate internet connectivity, that is beginning to change with the roll-out of new infrastructure and services.

The importance of quality broadband cannot be overstated, and it’s my mission to bridge the digital divide and ensure that every corner of our constituency, whether urban or rural, enjoys the benefits of a fast and reliable internet connection.