MP for Aberdeen South, Dame Anne Begg is calling for a review of funding criteria to prevent Aberdeen losing out on £6.5 million. Despite successfully bidding for funding from the Urban Broadband Fund 2 (UBF2), Aberdeen City and Shire could potentially lose out due to a lack of agreement over funding criteria.
Dame Anne has, therefore, written to the Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport asking her to alter the criteria to allow both local authorities to access the £6.5 million and deliver a world class fibre optic broadband infrastructure for the region.
Dame Anne said: “Aberdeen is a dynamic and vibrant city, a world leader in innovative technology, and the UK powerhouse for oil and gas production. Yet, potential development is being threatened by poor broadband speed.
“As a strong supporter of the bid for UBF2 funding, I was thrilled when we were successful following the immense amount of hard work and effort that went into our campaign. I continue to receive a number of phone calls from constituents still complaining of poor broadband speeds and I am both disappointed and frustrated by the slow progress in developing super fast broadband for everyone in the region. Not only are big companies being held back by limited broadband speeds, SMEs, which are vital components of the oil and gas supply chain are also suffering.
“I am therefore calling on the government to alter the funding criteria to ensure that Aberdeen City and Shire have the opportunity to really benefit from this money.”
Aberdeen City and Shire Councils are proposing a joint venture which would see a fibre based broadband infrastructure built across the North East boosting the local economy and providing a long term income stream for both authorities. However, a lack of agreement between DCMS and the European Commission indicates that the joint digital strategy proposed by the two local authorities is unlikely to meet the current criteria.
Dame Anne stated: “It appears that any funds released would have to be spent on either demand stimulation or vouchers for SMEs, neither of which is required in this area as Aberdeen City and Shire have the highest and second highest rates of broadband uptake in the UK. However, it is clear that what is required here in the North East is a world class fibre based infrastructure in order for us to fully realise our potential.”
The UBF2, also known as the Super Connected Cities Fund, was announced by the UK government in early 2012. In December 2012, Aberdeen was announced as one of twelve cities across the UK to be awarded a share of £50 million in order to provide homes and businesses with fibre optic broadband and high speed wireless Internet access.