Local SNP MP Calum Kerr has been selected to head up a “vital” review of Scottish mobile and broadband cover from Westminster.
Borders politician Calum Kerr has been appointed to lead the top level group which is campaigning for better broadband and mobile phone coverage, and it could lead to major improvements in the Borders.
The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP will chair an SNP group at Westminster examining the best way forward in dealing with the challenge of slow broadband speeds and patchy mobile signals which continue to affect users across Scotland.
Before being elected to Westminster last May, Mr Kerr had spent 20 years working in the telecoms industry and has an expert understanding of many of the issues.
Unreliable mobile phone and broadband coverage is one of the biggest issues affecting Borderers residents and small businesses.
Mr Kerr says that his postbag and e-mail inbox are often full of complaints from despairing constituents.
He explained further: “Lack of decent coverage is a big problem not just in this part of Scotland, but across the country as a whole.
“It’s a particular issue in rural areas and many of my fellow SNP MPs who are members of the new group face the same kind of poor coverage we have to put up with here in the Borders.
“It’s hugely important that we have a full understanding of the issues, that we talk to those who provide the services and regulate the sector across the UK and that we push for the best possible provision.”
Mr Kerr added: “Good broadband and mobile phone coverage aren’t just a convenience these days - they’re an absolute economic necessity.
“They can really be a lifeline, and businesses of all sizes need to know that they will be well connected, before they invest.
“If they can be given that assurance, then they will make the decision to start or grow their business and create jobs.
“If they don’t, they’ll most likely go somewhere else.”
Mr Kerr will be leading the group in a top-level meeting with regulators Ofcom in the coming days, and he will also be seeking further discussions with top players in the industry over the next few months.
Mr Kerr continued, outlining the impact of poor connectivity in the Borders.
He said: “The aim is to drive medium and longer term change and we’re already scoring some successes.
“For instance, I’ve had productive meetings with BT and EE and have been working hard on individual constituency issues as this affects communities from Newcastleton to Swinton.”
The Westminster group will take a detailed look at challenges and opportunities and also examine best practice across other European countries.
One focus will be on the lessons to be learned from other countries in terms of broadband and mobile phone provision and regulation and how these can be usefully applied across Scotland and the United Kingdom.