100 per cent community access to broadband achieved
10 January 2006
The commitment by the Scottish Executive to roll out broadband to every community by the end of 2005 has now been fulfilled they say.
As 2006 gets underway, a total of 378 remote and rural telephone exchange areas now have access to affordable broadband services.
Hailing the success of the joint Scottish Executive/BT project, Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen said that the business and educational benefits of broadband coverage to every community are far-reaching. He commented: “Scotland's future economic prosperity depends on our having fast, reliable connections to worldwide communications networks.
“Broadband can make a real difference to businesses, particularly for those in rural areas. It helps them become more efficient, promote their products and services and break into new national and global markets. It is also an important training and educational tool.”
General Manager at BT Scotland, Brendan Dick added: “To bring broadband to 378 exchange areas in just eight months is a great engineering achievement.
“The completion of this project is a significant milestone in the delivery and exploitation of broadband enabled communications for Scotland.”
Indeed, the rural broadband roll out in Scotland is to date the largest project of its kind in the UK and funded as part of the Executive's £24 million broadband initiative for Scotland.
The project also received financial support of up to £5 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme in Scotland. It was run in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise.
A contract was signed with BT in April 2005 following an open procurement exercise. This was to provide access to ADSL broadband in 378 telephone exchanges in rural and remote Scotland for which there were no plans for commercial services. This accounts for one-third of all Scottish exchanges. Only one of these exchanges is still to be fully enabled - in Foula in the Shetland Isles. However, an interim broadband solution is already providing broadband access in that area.
The Executive's commitment was to deliver broadband to every community in Scotland by the end of 2005. For the purpose of defining 'community', the Executive used 'census output areas' (COAs) which are the smallest building blocks for the higher order definitions of communities within the census. A typical COA will contain around 50 households. There are 1,615 COAs in the Executive's project. Several COAs - representing just 0.3 per cent of the total covered by the project - currently have no coverage, but these will be provided with broadband access by spring.
There are also 21 (non-commercial) exchange areas in the Western Isles, covered by a separate project called Connected Communities, led by HIE. This largely wireless network has launched services in the majority of these areas - see www.hebrides.net - with the remainder expected to receive access in the next few months.
There may be some instances where households who live distant from their exchange cannot access broadband, because of the technical limitations of ADSL (copper) technology. This 'out of reach' issue is UK-wide. Whilst the Executive is not committed to providing broadband to every household, it has however been working to identify any clusters of 'out of reach' households in Scotland where there is a demand for broadband. The Executive is developing the next steps for providing solutions to these 'clusters' over 2006, subject to criteria, including budget and value for money.
Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 12:39 GMT
Communities get broadband access
A project which aimed to give every community in Scotland access to broadband services has been completed, ministers have announced.
Over the last eight months some 378 remote and rural telephone exchanges - a third of the Scottish total - have been upgraded.
The Scottish Executive said the scheme would bring "far-reaching" business and educational benefits.
The project is part of the executive's £24m broadband initiative.
It was run in partnership with BT, which said it was "a great engineering achievement" to bring broadband to so many exchanges in such a short period of time.
Broadband can make a real difference to businesses, particularly for those in rural areas
Deputy First Minister
"The completion of this project is a significant milestone in the delivery and exploitation of broadband-enabled communications for Scotland," said BT Scotland general manager Brendan Dick.
Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen said it was "very good news" that the executive had met its broadband commitment.
"Scotland's future economic prosperity depends on our having fast, reliable connections to worldwide communications networks," he said.
"Broadband can make a real difference to businesses, particularly for those in rural areas.
"It helps them become more efficient, promote their products and services and break into new national and global markets. It is also an important training and educational tool."
The scheme brought broadband to exchanges where there were no plans for commercial services.
The only one which has still to be fully enabled serves Foula in Shetland, although an interim solution is already providing broadband access in the area.
The exchanges serving the Western Isles are covered by a separate project being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Out of reach
Services have been launched in most of its areas, with the remainder due to come on stream within the next few months.
The executive said some people who live far away from the exchanges were unable to access broadband due to the limitations of ADSL technology.
"While the executive is not committed to providing broadband to every household, it has however been working to identify any clusters of 'out of reach' households in Scotland where there is a demand for broadband," said a spokesman.
"The executive is developing the next steps for providing solutions to these 'clusters' over 2006, subject to criteria, including budget and value for money."
Committee News Release
20 May 2004
ENTERPRISE COMMITTEE LOOKS TO SCOTLAND ’S BROADBAND FUTURE
The Enterprise and Culture Committee published their latest report on the state of “broadband Scotland ”. The Committee welcomed the Executive’s contribution to the widespread roll-out of high-speed internet access, but are calling for the target to be increased to 100% coverage. This was a key recommendation in a 2001 broadband report to Parliament.
The Executive’s target was for 70% of the country to have access to broadband by March 2004, and the Committee’s research shows that actual figure is now around 80%. The latest plans also show a target of 95% coverage to be achieved by summer 2005, but the Committee was critical of the fact that uncertainty remains about how and when the final 5% of the population will have access to broadband.
Members were impressed by the work of local community groups in pressurising for broadband connections, and concluded that policy must now focus on encouraging usage of broadband across the country, and set targets for that take-up.
The report also highlights problems with the Executive’s ‘Pathfinder’ projects. These were set up in 2001 to use the power of the public purse to speed up access to broadband, but are still, disappointingly, only at the procurement stage.
Committee Convener Alasdair Morgan said:
“The rate of growth in access to broadband since 2001 has been impressive, and both business and the Executive can take credit for that.
“However, the Executive should now go the final mile, and aim to achieve the same level of near 100% coverage for broadband that is currently provided for other basic public services like electricity and water. This will mean that the 5% of Scots living and working in more remote areas aren’t left behind. Universal access to broadband must be a crucial part of our approach to both competitiveness and social inclusion.”
Deputy Convener Mike Watson MSP added:
“The next big challenge will be to increase take-up. The Executive’s focus must shift towards helping businesses, particularly small businesses, to see how broadband can benefit their bottom-line.
“Broadband also opens up massive potential for public information and public services to be provided online. It is essential that access to these services be made available throughout Scotland .”
The Committee’s report builds on the ‘Report on the Inquiry into the Impact of the New Economy’ published by the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee in the first session of the Parliament.
The full report is available online (- Vol 1 Report here and Vol 2 Evidence here).