Scotland Complains Over Broadband Cash Allocation

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The Scottish government is not happy over the amount of money it has been allocated for broadband

The Scottish parliament has lambasted its share of the broadband funding handout issued by the government earlier this week.

On Tuesday culture secretary Jeremy Hunt released more details of how the government’s £530 million investment in the UK’s broadband  network would be distributed. Counties across England are set to receive £294.8 million from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), with a further £68.8 million to be invested in Scotland.

Full details of allocations for each county can be found here (pdf). The scheme aims to provide a minimum of at least 2Mbps to all residents and businesses.

Not Realistic

However despite garnering the largest single handout, the Scottish parliament believes the £68.8m is not a realistic figure considering the size of the challenge for broadband provision in Scotland.

And the Scottish parliament lost little time in hitting out in a statement.

“I am disappointed with the allocation from the UK Government towards the Scottish Government’s ambition for roll out of next generation broadband across the whole of Scotland,” said Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment.

“Whilst today’s funding will contribute in some measure to fulfilment of our broadband ambition, we will play our own part through direct investment of Scottish government funding, as well as exploring alternative financing models,” said Neil. “We expect these funds to leverage a significant amount of private sector investment to improve broadband coverage in Scotland.”

“However, this announcement from the UK government has fallen short of the expectations of the Scottish economy to the overall costs of broadband rollout in the remote and rural parts of Scotland,” he added.

“For instance the cost to deliver next generation broadband across the Highlands and Islands alone has been estimated at up to £300 million, therefore we do not regard the UK government’s allocation as a realistic contribution to meet Scotland’s broadband requirements.”

A Better Deal

“The Scottish government believes that people across Scotland should have the same access to the benefits of high speed connection and fair access to the digital revolution,” Neil said.

“Despite today’s announcement by the UK government, there would still appear to be money remaining from their £530m broadband fund which was set aside from the TV licence fee. I will be writing to Mr Hunt today to clarify this point, with a view to securing a better deal for Scotland,” he said.

The call for more government funding for the provision of broadband by relevant authorities is not unexpected. Indeed, many regions will be doing their level best to persuade the government to invest more into their own regions.

For example, back in December Ian Lucas MP, the Labour party’s shadow business minster, hit out at what he called the lack of funding for superfast broadband for Wales. And Northern Ireland was given just £4.4 million, less than one percent of the total fund.

Broadband Challenges

Yet there is little doubt that Scotland, like Wales, does present certain geographic challenges to the rollout of broadband, and sometimes a wireless option is a better solution.

In December it was announced that a WiMax network would connect rural residents in a small Scottish county of Clackmannanshire to the Internet, following a grant by the Scottish parliament.

And in that same month it was announced that the European Union had granted “state aid clearance” for a new fibre optic network in the Shetland Islands, which would help more of the residents and businesses gain access to high-speed broadband.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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