Stephen Nasrat at desk in field
Stephen Nasrat at desk in field

Residents complaining about poor internet speed in their rural community have set up an office in a field.

Locals have set up the remote office – a workplace in a field with cows in Finderne, near Forres in Moray – and challenged Minister for Connectivity Paul Wheelhouse to work there for a day.

The group is angry about delays in providing interim vouchers worth £400 to help Scots improve their web access.

It’s the same story for remote and rural communities across Scotland

Pery Zakeri

Pery Zakeri, development manager of the Finderne Development Trust, said: “Working from a desk in a field in the heart of our rural community will soon let Mr Wheelhouse get a taste of the everyday reality for those trying to run a business or home-school kids in this part of the world.

“We’ve even seen people forced to leave the area because they can’t continue with university studies while living in their family homes because the connectivity is so bad.

“There are days when you’d be more successful getting a usable connection by trying to plug your phone or computer into a turnip, or maybe a passing cow.

“It’s the same story for remote and rural communities across Scotland

“What we want to show him is that you can have everything you need for a workplace or home office – but in 2021 it’s pretty much worthless without a functioning broadband connection.”

The Scottish Government’s R100 – Reaching 100% programme – aims to deliver 30 Megabits per second (Mbps) to every home and business in Scotland by the end of 2021.

However, the scheme has been hit by a series of delays, and residents claim the Government has fumbled the rollout of interim support vouchers.

The trust claims those £400 vouchers would help families and businesses pay for short-term solutions to help them achieve faster connectivity until R100 is delivered.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “We know that some communities still do not have the connectivity they need and deserve.

“That is why we are the only government in the UK committed to providing access to superfast broadband for every home and business in our country and we are investing £579 million in the £600 million Reaching 100% (R100) programme.

“R100 is currently the biggest public sector investment in a single broadband project in the UK and includes £384 million for the north of Scotland area alone – all this despite all regulation and legislative powers over broadband and telecommunications being ‘reserved’ responsibilities of UK ministers and all market regulation being the responsibility of Ofcom, the UK telecommunications market regulator.

“The contract for our R100 north lot was signed with BT on December 11, ensuring that some of Scotland most remote and rural island communities will benefit from at least superfast broadband, with more than 85% of the build in the north lot area being in the form of gigabit speed (1,000 megabits per second) fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology.

“While build plans are being finalised to account for further commercial build, homes and businesses currently unable to access superfast broadband are currently eligible for the main voucher under our Scottish broadband voucher scheme; offering up to £5,000 to obtain a broadband connection.

“This currently includes premises in Finderne. Once the updated list of premises receiving build under the R100 is finalised with BT, we will then be able to offer the £400 interim voucher to those for whom R100 build will be delivered later than December 2021.”

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