IN THE recent Queen’s speech, the UK Government set out further plans to provide universal access to high speed broadband for every household in the UK ensuring it is “sufficient for modern life”. The Bill will give families a legal right to a minimum 10Mbps speed and Ofcom will be given powers to force broadband providers to deliver this down to “household level”. Sounds impressive but in reality it seriously lacks both ambition and deliverability. No specific timescales were included, and references to businesses - specifically rural ones - are conspicuous by their absence. And this approach risks locking us in to a continuous cycle of incremental upgrades. Ambition because a small town of 170,000 inhabitants in Tennessee, Chattanooga (previously famed only for Glenn Miller’s Choo Choo film score) recently became one of the first places in the world to offer all homes and businesses access to broadband speeds of 10gigabits per second. Yes, gigabits. That’s one thousand times faster than the UK government target. Deliverability because the actions of the key service providers do not match their rhetoric. On the back of attending a conference at which their speaker described them as a “business enabler”, the Chamber wrote to BT in March, asking for support in overcoming some barriers to specific fibre projects in Aberdeenshire. At the time of writing, we still await a reply. The UK is the fifth biggest economy on the planet, yet is a lower league player in the world digital league coming in at 23rd for download speeds and an entirely underwhelming 39th for uploads speeds. In a six-month survey by uSwitch.com, Aberdeen was found to have the second lowest broadband speed of the 42 UK cities surveyed. The good news, however, is that there are plans to address this here. Aberdeen City Council has made a commitment to provide free city centre broadband by the end of the year and the ambition to make this region Britain’s digital capital is brave and welcomed. The £20million allocated within the city region deal will be complemented by an estimated £30million investment from the private sector. The question for the North-east has not to be “how do we play catch up?” but instead, “what will it take for us to become leaders; to be a Chattanooga; to really future-proof our provision?” This could be a key point of differentiation as we seek to reposition and diversify our economy. Eight-six per cent of Chamber members say digital is either very important or critical to their business. There is little doubt that as far as return on infrastructure investment goes, it surely doesn’t get any better than this. So, to boost business confidence, competitiveness and productivity at this critical time for our economy we are asking both Westminster and Holyrood governments to make this a key priority. Of course, this is about more than just broadband as mobile technology has a key role to play. I’m writing this piece in an office in Bridge of Don but glancing at my iPhone I see the dreaded No Service message. So if you didn’t enjoy this article, there’s probably no point trying to phone me.