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 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.
The Deputy First Minister explained that the venture had been agreed using the Scottish model of procurement, and added
“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.
Mr Murphy added: “It will stimulate growth in its thriving small business and social enterprise culture, helping the country compete in an increasingly digital world.
“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 the contract would enable 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.
He added: “The partnership approach to this project with the Scottish Government and BDUK has provided the best value contract for the public purse,”
UK Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey described the project as “challenging” and said:
“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.
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. The study estimated an increase of 14,000 new jobs induced by the deployment, with a significant number being high value, knowledge economy positions.
The Highlands and Islands Broadband project includes Highland, Moray, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Eilean Siar (Western Isles), parts of Argyll and Bute and part of North Ayrshire (Islands).
The Rest of Scotland project area includes 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.