Scottish tech companies face extra problems, especially outside the big cities. Political decisions are driven by the needs of the urban conurbations, and the needs of rural communities come in at the bottom of the list of spending priorities.
Fast broadband access is the most obvious examples where city-based businesses get a better deal.
A fast broadband connection has become a necessity for everyone. Farmers and crofters in the Highlands need an internet connection just as much as schools and apartment dwellers in Glasgow or Aberdeen.
It took decades to connect every home and business in Scotland to the electricity grid. A similar timescale looks to be on the cards for internet connections.
Slow internet connections are not limited to Scotland, as the Which.co.uk report referenced below shows. However, Scottish internet connections are amongst the worst in the UK.
The extract below is from the Scottish Government Reaching 100 (R100) Plan
The Reaching 100% Programme (“R100”) is striving to extend the availability of NGA broadband infrastructure to meet the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver superfast broadband access to 100% of premises in Scotland by 2021.
To achieve this, Scottish Government intends to procure further coverage of NGA broadband infrastructure (capable of delivering download speeds of at least 30 Mbps) in areas where such broadband is currently unavailable. Geographically, R100 covers the whole of Scotland.
The target date of 2021 does not bode well for those without fast broadband right now. Defining fast broadband a 30Mb/sec is a sick joke. On a typical domestic fibre internet connection, users will only get a measurable speed of 8-10Mb/sec for much of the time. This is because up to 50 premises share the line! You cannot run a connected business with internet speeds that are slower than the lucky residents of London were getting in 2009.
The quote below from the same source is revealing.
Extending coverage as far as possible to deliver superfast broadband access to 100% of premises in Scotland.
“As far as possible”, means the programme is a lie and is never going to provide fast internet access to 100% of the Scottish homes and businesses that are in desperate need of it.
If you can see the sky you will be able to receive a satellite broadband signal. However it won’t be fast by any definition, and your data transfer will be limited. It is totally unsuitable to run any internet-dependent business, even when you disregard its high monthly charges. Check out satellite internet providers in Scotland here, but be sure to read up on all the disadvantages. Watch out for long contracts that lock you into current low speeds and data limits long after alternatives will be offering better deals.
4G broadband is an alternative home connection for your employees, especially if they live close to a transmission tower. Speeds close to a tower can be as high as 70 Mb/sec, which would definitely count as fast broadband, but 20-30Mb/sec speeds are more common as the distance from the transmission tower increases.
You may be able to receive 4G broadband even if your phone picks up only a weak signal because broadband providers such as Speednet Scotland use an external receiver to pick up a stronger signal.
An AI Networks leased line offers the only realistic way to run a data-centric business in Scotland.
As you would expect it costs more than a standard internet connection, but then you wouldn’t have to share the line’s capacity with fifty other subscribers: All the bandwidth on the line is yours, your data transfers are near-instant, your latency is almost zero, and your system doesn’t grind to a halt because fifty sets of school students are all trying to talk to one another on social media at 4pm when schools are out for the day.
Leased lines might not be available in your area yet, so check before committing to any investment.
Broadband provision in rural Scotland is a disaster that won’t be fixed anytime soon. You need a leased line to give you the speed and essential data handling capacity your business is built on. However, they are not widely available outside the large conurbations, so the best you can do is to build your operations near a large city where leased lines are available.
Any employees who choose to live far from city life will be able to work remotely if they can access 4G broadband at home. Remote working might be the only way your staff can work in many Scottish winters, so be prepared to be flexible in offering this facility.
Despite internet connectivity issues, the Scottish technology sector is growing rapidly, so there is some hope that rural communities can start to benefit once data lines are laid.