Visitor numbers at a Moray tourist attraction could suffer because poor internet service prevents people from posting online during trips.
That’s the claim from officials at the Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay, which is one of several spots in the village where the internet coverage frequently fails.
Bosses believe the venue’s popularity would be boosted if people could express their excitement about dolphin sightings on social media during visits.
But outdated internet connections in Spey Bay have meant the signal frequently drops out or is significantly slower than in neighbouring parts of the region.
Disgruntled residents believe they have been left exasperated by poor internet provision “for 20 years”.
Internet provider Openreach yesterday confirmed that it was “committed” to resolving the situation, and detailed plans to replace hundreds of feet of cable around Spey Bay.
But, for the wildlife conservation and observation centre, the improvements can not come quickly enough.
The venue had resorted to receiving internet via satellite, but recently switched back to broadband because of the high costs involved.
SDC officer, Lisa Farley, said: “We have more than 95,000 people in every year, and we appreciate that they can come here and spend time with their families – without having their faces down looking at their phones.
“But that is a double-edged sword, because we want people to be able to post on social media that they have seen a dolphin.
“One of our challenges is that they can’t do that at the moment.
“That would be a fantastic marketing tool for us, and we would certainly want reliable, superfast broadband for that purpose.”
Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor, David Bremner, welcomed the moves to improve coverage, after being “repeatedly” contacted by frustrated locals.
He added: “There is still some way to go, but having the area surveyed and Openreach drawing up schematics as to how to improve things is a huge step forward.
“It shows a level of commitment to resolve the issue.”
An Openreach spokesman said: “Around 82% of Moray homes and businesses are able to connect to superfast broadband speeds greater than 30Mbps, including in parts of Spey Bay.
“Engineers are connecting more addresses each week, and have replaced several hundred feet of cabling and many underground cable connections in the Spey Bay area.”
Campaign for better connectivity
John Wright, who lives in a former fishing cottage near the Scottish Dolphin Centre, has spearheaded Spey Bay’s campaign for internet improvements in recent years.
The Lennox Community Council member has contacted politicians about the situation and surveyed his neighbours to find out their thoughts.
Last night, he described the prospect of imminent cable upgrades as long overdue. Mr Wright said: “Generally, people are disgruntled all the time.
“This has gone on for 20 years, from the days of the old dial-up broadband. “The problem is mainly that the internet frequently cuts out.”
The frequent “drop outs” are understood to be caused by copper connections in parts of the coastal community, while those who have fibre cables do not suffer the same inconvenience.
Mr Wright said that prompt action needed to be taken, given society’s growing reliance on digital connections.
He added: “Last June, I was that incensed by the whole thing that I handed out flyers and got 130 people in the area to email me with their thoughts.
“They had all been experiencing much the same problems as myself, which is unacceptable with folk increasingly being encouraged to do their banking and shopping online. “Even my grandkids depend on the internet when visiting, and it causes them frustration when it goes out too.”