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John Swinney, the Scottish Deputy First Minister, has called for a binding legal commitment for universal broadband access.

In a letter to the UK's Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey, the MSP for Perthshire North called for a universal service obligation for broadband in Scotland.

john swinney

This would come with an "appropriate speed requirement", meaning the government would be required to provide a certain level of connectivity to each household and business premises.

“Broadband is something that everyone in Scotland should have access to - it’s a vital service in today’s world," Mr Swinney claimed.

"That is why I am pressing the UK government to introduce a broadband universal service obligation, which would set out access as an entitlement."

He noted that Finland, Malta and Spain have all taken this step in recent years, as a way of ensuring no-one is excluded from the benefits of this "integral technology".

"We should make more use of regulatory levers such as universal service obligations, alongside the substantial investment that the public sector has made in digital infrastructure in recent years, to ensure access for all and to maintain a competitive environment," Mr Swinney added.

He suggested that Ofcom’s forthcoming Strategic Review of Digital Communications will be an opportunity to consider how best to do this.

Mr Swinney said the Scottish government looks forward to working with UK ministers and the communications regulator as part of the new enhanced role recommended by the Smith Commission.

"I believe that a broadband universal service obligation could make an important contribution to our digital ambitions for Scotland and I call on the UK government to take this forward," he added.

The Federation of Small Businesses recently called on the government to commit to a minimum 'service level floor' of 10Mb broadband to all UK premises by 2018-19.

This universal speed requirement would then rise to 100Mb by 2030, ensuring all companies can take advantage of super-fast speeds.

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