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The Stack Archive

Scottish Independence could lead to increased network costs for consumers

Mon 15 Sep 2014

Scottish consumers could face higher internet and phone bills in the event of Thursday’s referendum leading to an independent Scotland, according to an open letter from the CEOs of six major UK telecommunications companies.

The participants in the weekend’s cautionary missive are Gavin Patterson (BT), Dido Harding (TalkTalk), Ronan Dunne (O2), Olaf Swantee (EE), David Dyson (Three UK) and Jeroen Hoencamp (Vodafone UK). The open letter reiterates collective commitment to the continuing roll-out of high-speed broadband and increased coverage to the UK in general, but expresses concern about how an iScottish telecom industry could be regulated in practice.

“What approach” the joint statement asks “would the government of an independent Scotland take to the radio spectrum – currently licensed on a UK-wide basis – without which mobile networks cannot operate?”

The letter also expresses concern about continuing to support Scotland’s challenging connectivity landscape should the country lose its claim to digital inclusiveness, stating “we may need to consider whether to modify the services offered in Scotland, given its relatively demanding topography and relatively low population density. Any of these factors could lead to increased industry costs”.

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Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont commented that “Being part of the UK keeps costs down for families here in Scotland”, but First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond responded to Sky News that no “orchestrated campaign of intimidation” would prevent a ‘Yes’ vote this Thursday.

“The people of Scotland are not going to have big government orchestrating big oil and big supermarkets to tell us we can’t run our own country”.

The open letter is another acrimonious note in the climate of general panic that has prevailed since polls began to indicate a lead – or at least parity – for a ‘Yes’ vote three weeks ago.

The Coalition government’s outline [PDF] for the digital future of Scotland, released early in its administration, declared that the rate of broadband uptake by people in Scotland should be “highest among the UK nations by 2015”.

The following year the Scottish government published the digital manifesto Scotland’s Digital Future: A Strategy for Scotland, noting that “The combination of poor connectivity and limited ICT skills can lead to digital exclusion for many people. It can also increase the “digital divide” and lower opportunities for learning, reduce access to public services and inhibit business growth. In turn, rural areas may lose their competitive advantage and be seen as less attractive places to do business.”

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