Cash boost for Scottish broadband

The Scottish Executive hopes to achieve a big jump in ADSL coverage within a year - but some firms aren't happy

Millions of pounds are to be spent driving broadband coverage in parts of Scotland previously denied affordable high-speed Internet access.

The Scottish Executive announced on Tuesday that it is allocating £24m to a plan to accelerate rollout, stimulate competition and improve access to broadband, aiming for 70 percent ADSL coverage north of the border by the end of 2003.

Without this investment, the Executive believes, it will take until 2006 for ADSL coverage to reach 70 percent -- a position that Iain Gray, minister for enterprise, transport and life-long learning, described as unacceptable.

Only around 40 percent of Scottish households can subscribe to ADSL, compared to a UK average of 66 percent. This is because telcos such as BT only sell broadband where they say there is sufficient demand to justify the costs -- a policy which often rules out rural areas where population density, and thus the number of potential customers, is lower.

Some companies have complained that the move is unfairly biased in favour of BT, which supplies the ADSL that is resold by many ISPs. However, the Executive has said that some of the £24m will be spent on a technology-neutral marketing campaign that will aim to boost broadband awareness.

"What we are aiming to achieve is a virtuous spiral, where increased supply results in higher take up which in turn, delivers greater investment in infrastructure. The technology-neutral marketing campaign is part of this and we will work with the business sector and commercial partners to ensure maximum take-up of the available services," said Gray in a statement.

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