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11/08/15 00:01

£18million broadband boost

Deal will see extension of rural connectivity programme

Almost £18million funding is being made available to accelerate high speed broadband roll-out for Scotland’s rural communities.

The early benefit comes from the success of the Scottish Government-backed £410million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme, which has now reached over 365,000 homes and businesses from the Shetland Isles to Dumfries and Galloway.

The announcement comes as the Scottish Cabinet visit Ullapool in the Highlands. Ministers will carry out a number of visits in and around the town today ahead of a Cabinet meeting and public discussion.

The current programme brings together public and BT funding to go further with fibre broadband to areas that would not be reached by commercial investment alone. It will result in 85% of premises in Scotland with access to high speed fibre broadband by the end of March 2016 and 95% by the end of 2017.

The contract between the Scottish Government, BT and Highlands and Islands Enterprise included a “gain share” clause to claw back funding if the project reached agreed take up levels, which it is on track to exceed.

Speaking ahead of the Ullapool Cabinet meeting, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“Today my Cabinet colleagues and I are visiting Ullapool, which is exactly the kind of place that will benefit hugely from this improvement to our digital infrastructure. Improved connectivity is a major priority for the Scottish Government, and a boost like this will allow the continued roll-out of this technology to an even greater number of rural areas.

“We are working with BT to ensure that our investment in the DSSB programme extends coverage as far as possible; while, at the same time, getting clarity on which areas won’t be reached. This will allow these communities to work with Community Broadband Scotland to explore alternative solutions in parallel with DSSB roll-out.

“We are now seeing huge strides forward in transforming the future of connectivity for Scotland’s rural communities and businesses, many of which would never have seen these kinds of connections through the commercial market.

“This is another major step towards creating an infrastructure capable of supporting world class connectivity across Scotland by 2020.”

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland Director, said:

“The fibre broadband roll-out is a real success story, and we’re delighted to be able to share that success with Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise by making £17.8 million available to help connect some of the hardest to reach homes and businesses.

“The open network which we’re rolling out brings real choice to communities and this is helping to drive take-up which is key to the programme’s future.”

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital, said:

“Superfast broadband is now available to more than 60 additional rural towns and villages in the Highlands and Islands.

“We’re delighted people have been quick to embrace the benefits. It’s great news that take-up in our first communities is directly helping us to bring better broadband to even more people.”

Notes to editors

Fibre broadband enables multiple users in a home or business to access the internet, download and share large files at the same time more quickly than ever before. In order to take advantage of the higher speeds now available, residents should contact their service provider.

  • The new network now passes 365,000 Scottish homes and businesses with Openreach’s engineers currently passing almost 7000 premises each week making fibre available.
  • With the ultimate goal of 750,000 premises connected to fibre broadband by the end of March, 2018, this means the Digital Scotland rollout has reached almost half way. This allows the funding BT has received to be reinvested over a number of years into further coverage if take-up is better than the 20 per cent* expected in BT’s original business case.

The higher take-up rate to date has resulted in BT making a new business case assumption of reaching 30 per cent take-up in these areas. Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband’s take up performance is currently out stripping all other UK contracts and is now on a clear path to achieve at least 30% take up.

* This 20 percent take-up rate was based on international comparisons and BT’s experience in its own commercial roll-out