A group of academics have raised doubts about whether the rollout of super-fast broadband in Scotland will go ahead as planned.
According to the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Digital Scotland Working Group, the government's Step Change programme is unlikely to deliver its target of 95 per cent coverage and will only improve connectivity for 80 per cent of households instead.
The group said this 95 per cent claim "is not credible" and described Scotland's long-term broadband prospects as "dismal".
Using the available data, it has predicted more than four in ten (43 per cent) of Scotland's 450,000 rural households will not receive super-fast connections through the rollout. It added there is "no indication" as to how the final 15 per cent of homes the Step Change project expects to cover will receive an improved service.
"These claims are made on the basis of the available data, and it is possible that we are wrong, but - as scientists - we want to see the full evidence that refutes them," the group stated.
It claimed some local communities in rural areas have set about installing their own networks in a bid to improve connectivity, but warned the level of funding available for such schemes is not sufficient.
The academics also stressed the fibre cables that will be laid across Scotland through the Step Change project will belong to BT and said action needs to be taken to ensure communities and third parties can access this infrastructure on fair terms.
In its conclusion, the group stated: "At present Scotland has no plans that will achieve the EU target of 30 Mbps to all by 2020. It has no plans for delivering it to the final 15 per cent of its population, which includes almost half of its rural households."
It called on the government to act "quickly, decisively and independently", otherwise a generation of rural residents will miss out on the many benefits of the internet.
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