Scotland aims for five-fold speed boost by 2015

The Scottish Government has detailed its strategy for ensuring most of the nation's population can access super-fast broadband

The Scottish government has published its plan to upgrade the nation's broadband infrastructure.

According to the Infrastructure Action Plan, revealed on Tuesday, the average internet connection speed will increase by 2015 from the current 6.8Mbps average to between 40-80Mbps, the speeds offered by fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology.

The plan also aims to have Scottish broadband take-up at or above the UK average by 2013, and "the highest among the nations by 2015".

"The purpose of this plan is to deliver a step change in people's ability to access the internet, enabling people to connect from their homes, businesses and while on the move," infrastructure cabinet secretary Alex Neil MSP said in the document. "A world-class digital infrastructure for Scotland must deliver in terms of speed and ease of access, geographical coverage, and price and choice of provision for consumers."

According to the plan, the Scottish Government will also establish a £5m "seed fund" by April this year, to kick off local broadband projects and promote "innovative technology options".

Consumer Focus Scotland's Annie McGovern said in a separate statement that having the right infrastructure in place was "absolutely critical" if Scots were to keep pace with technological developments.

"These commitments by the Scottish Government will, if they are delivered, ensure that by 2015 broadband speeds are at least five times faster, more action is taken to better connect our remote and rural communities and that Scotland can be at the forefront of embracing new technology," McGovern said.

The Scottish Government published its digital strategy in March 2011, saying that "world-class" next-generation broadband must be available to all by 2020, and "significant progress" must have been made by 2015. This week's action plan detailed how the 2015 target is to be met. The steps needed for the 2020 goal will follow by the end of the year.

According to the plan, 85-90 percent of premises in Scotland will have to be able to get FTTC speeds by 2015. "Our procurement strategy will seek to extend the reach further and deliver the best possible speeds for those where delivery of 40-80Mbps is not possible at this stage," the document reads.

The funding for achieving the boosted speeds will come from a variety of sources. £68.8m will come from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund, as revealed last August to Neil's dissatisfaction. At the time, Westminster's Scottish Secretary responded to Neil's complaints by telling the Scots to "cheer up".

When the BDUK funding was announced, Neil said the amount would be insufficient even if matched by the Scottish Government. He noted that the Highlands and Islands alone would require £300m for a proper super-fast broadband rollout.

This week's strategy plan shows that the Scottish Government has more than matched the BDUK funds with £79.5m from the nation's budget, although up to £25.5m of this will come from EU funding. A further £40m has "already been earmarked by local authorities" for the deployment.

"We will also seek to secure additional EU funding through future programmes," the strategy document added.

The plan also noted that Scotland expects to get "an appropriately significant share of the benefits" of the UK government's £150m pot for helping mobile coverage reach 99 percent of the UK. Scotland currently only has around 85 percent coverage, largely due to its topography.

In addition, the document said the Scottish Government has asked Ofcom to extend the coverage obligations in the upcoming 4G spectrum auction so that 98 percent of the population in each Scottish region gets high-speed mobile broadband access. There is already a 98-percent coverage obligation on one future licensee, but that is a UK average.

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