Scottish Superfast Broadband Rollout Reaches 1.5m Homes And Businesses

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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BT and BDUK projects reach milestone as fibre rollout accelerates

Superfast broadband is now available to more than 1.5 million homes and businesses in Scotland thanks to BT’s commercial rollout and government-funded initiatives like Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).

The £410m Digital Scotland partnership, funded by BDUK, the Scottish Government, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and BT, compromises two separate projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands and the other covering the rest of Scotland.

BT’s commercially deployments have so far reached 1.3 million properties, while Digital Scotland-funded projects now cover 220,000 – up from the 150,000 reported in November. So far 4,500 km of fibre and 4,700 cabinets have been deployed in the rollout, which it is hoped will reach 85 percent of the Scottish population by 2016 and 95 percent by 2018.

BDUK rollout

Edinburgh Carlton Hill Scotland © Keattikorn Shutterstock“The scale of delivering fibre broadband across our communities in Scotland shouldn’t be underestimated and this announcement shows how hard engineers are working,” said Scottish deputy first minister John Swinney. “We are still in the early stages of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, and without it thousands of Scottish homes and businesses simply wouldn’t have had access to high-speed technology.”

The BT Openreach network reaches 22 million premises nationally, two million of which have been connected through BDUK. The UK government is targeting 95 percent coverage by 2017 and has turned its attention to connecting the final five percent of the UK population through ‘alternative’ technologies like satellite and LTE.

“This is tremendous news for Scotland, and I’m delighted that 1.5m homes and businesses have now got access to a fast and reliable internet connection,” added Ed Vaizey, UK minister for the digital economy. “The UK government is investing £100 million in superfast broadband for Scotland and our rollout has already reached more than 200,000 properties that the commercial rollout would not have covered.”

BT involvement

BT has so far won all of the money available from BDUK, which has up to £790 million to allocate to local authorities, which must match any funding they receive from central government. However the process has been controversial amid accusations that it has been anti-competitive and that BT has been less than transparent about costs and rollout details.

A recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) suggested that BT was overestimating the cost of rollout by up to £92 million while MPs have said the project is not serving rural areas adequately. Other research has suggested many people don’t know if they can receive superfast broadband or which providers offer such services.

BT has continually defended its involvement, saying it is providing value for money to the taxpayer and has invested £1 billion of its shareholders’ money into BDUK projects.

“Today is a major milestone in Scotland’s digital revolution,” said Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director. “Access to secure, high-speed communications will drive the future economic prosperity of our country. It’s vital that people embrace the digital revolution and make the most of the new infrastructure. Together with our partners, we will continue to work to meet Scotland’s ambition of delivering world class connectivity by 2020.”

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