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09/07/13 09:30

Scotland gets digitally connected

£264 million investment for high speed broadband

Hundreds of thousands of households and businesses across Scotland are set to reap the rewards of high-speed fibre broadband thanks to a £264 million investment announced today by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The project will be delivered by BT, which is investing £106.7m in the partnership, and is being led by the Scottish Government working together with local authorities and Broadband Delivery UK in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Together with a £146 million partnership announced earlier this year to bring faster broadband to the Highlands and Islands and commercial investment plans by the private sector, the new project will ensure that 85 per cent of Scottish properties have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2015 and around 95 per cent by the end of 2017.

Initial priority will be given to rural small and medium sized businesses to encourage economic growth in hard to reach areas.

Speaking during a visit to a BT exchange building in Pitt Street, Glasgow, where the contract for the project was signed with BT, Ms Sturgeon said:

“Today's announcement signals the start of one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the whole of Europe. It will connect communities across rural and urban areas, providing a platform for future economic development and regeneration.

"Next generation broadband enables businesses to compete on the international stage. It has the potential to transform the way in which we educate our children, provide health and social care and deliver our public services. It provides Scotland with a platform upon which we can build and sustain a world class digital country.

“Using the Scottish model of procurement, we have worked with local authorities, CoSLA, BDUK and BT to agree this contract and will continue to work in partnership to deliver real benefits to local people and businesses. Both national and local government recognise that digital connectivity is vital to future economic prosperity and the success of our partnership is testament to our shared ambition to ensure that Scottish business and communities realise the benefits of the digital age.”

Bill Murphy, BT managing director of Next Generation Access, said:

“Having invested significantly in our own commercial project to build a fibre network covering almost 1.5 million premises in Scotland, we’re incredibly excited to be working in partnership with the Scottish Government and local authorities to extend the technology into those mainly rural and remote parts of Scotland that the market alone could not reach.

“We believe that access to a reliable, high-speed broadband service can shape lives for the better, and so this is an important moment in the evolution of Scotland’s communications story. We’ll create a platform to support Scotland’s economic and social prosperity well into the future. It will stimulate growth in its thriving small business and social enterprise culture, helping the country compete in an increasingly digital world.

“We bring the benefits of economies of scale driving value for money, huge experience in deployment and working in partnership with publicly funded projects, and building open networks which offer internet users an array of choice in service providers and costs.

“Bringing fibre broadband to another 600,000-plus Scottish homes and businesses is a huge civil engineering challenge. We’re looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and starting work straight away to deliver an outstanding, transformational project.”

Councillor David ONeill, President of COSLA said:

"We welcome the signing of the contract with BT that will enable the delivery of significant improvement in the speed of broadband service to many more households than would have been possible without the partnership funding from Scottish Councils and the Scottish Government.

"Local Communities especially in rural areas have been uniformly clear across Scotland that better accessibility to higher speed broadband services was a top priority and for that reason all 32 Scottish Councils agreed to pool over £90m to deliver this project alongside European Union funding of over £20 million.

"Scottish Councils and Scottish Government via the creation of a joint funding scheme along with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) are helping to ensure the delivery of Scotland's digital strategy has the biggest economic, social and environment impact possible on local communities. The contract outcomes will promote local economic development through greater digital access to markets, enable communities to access vital services remotely rather than needing to travel and as a result reduce their impact on the environment.

"The partnership approach to this project with the Scottish Government and BDUK has provided the best value contract for the public purse, delivered national outcomes whilst being responsive to local needs, allowing all councils involved, where technically feasible to secure at least three-quarters coverage of enhanced broadband services for their local communities and in some cases significantly more through additional funding."

UK Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said:

“The complex and remote landscape of much of Scotland makes this one of the largest and most challenging projects in our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband. This contract, signed today, marks the beginning of a transformation of broadband services for the population of southern and mid Scotland. Together with the already agreed Highlands and Islands project, it will be instrumental in driving growth and boosting local economies throughout the country, giving 90% coverage by late 2016 and helping achieve the UK government’s objective of reaching 95% of UK premises by 2017.”

Notes to editors

The project is being supported through £157.6million public funding including £50 million from BDUK and BT investment of £106.7million. The public funding includes fourteen local authorities who are investing around £51 million to increase coverage, meet local priorities and address the digital divide in their areas.

This, coupled with the investment in the Highlands and Islands region announced earlier in the year, brings the total investment in fibre broadband to over £410 million.

Details of announcement for Highlands and Islands: http://www.hie.co.uk/regional-information/digital-highlands-and-islands/default.html

A Scotland-focused study by Analysys Mason estimates that a project to provide just 85% NGA coverage in Scotland would deliver £2 billion in economic benefits over 15 years. These include increased productivity, and health and environmental benefits. This study estimated an increase of 14,000 new jobs induced by the deployment, with a significant number being high value, knowledge economy positions.

The Scottish Government’s Step Change project consists of two procurements – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the Rest of Scotland. Together they cover the whole of Scotland.

The Rest of Scotland project area includes the following local authority areas: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, parts of Argyll & Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, City of Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire (apart from the Islands), North Lanarkshire, Perth & Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian.

The Highlands and Islands Broadband project includes the following local authority areas: Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Eilean Siar (Western Isles), parts of Argyll and Bute and part of North Ayrshire (Islands).

About BT

BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Retail, BT Wholesale and Openreach.

In the year ended 31 March 2013, BT Group’s revenue was £18,017m with profit before taxation of £2,501m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

For more information, visit www.btplc.com