Scotland unhappy with broadband cash

Scotland will need more money than it has been allocated to perform an upgrade of its critical broadband infrastructure, a member of Scottish Parliament has said

The Scottish Parliament has criticised its share of the broadband infrastructure fund allocated by the Department of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, saying it is not a realistic figure for the task at hand

Alex Neil Scottish minister

Alex Neil, Scottish cabinet secretary for infrastructure, has criticised the amount Scotland received from the Broadband Delivery UK fund. Photo credit: Scottish government

On Tuesday, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that Scotland would receive £68.8m from the £530m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund set up to bring super-fast broadband to the country. The scheme aims to provide a minimum of at least 2Mbps to all residents and businesses.

However, Alex Neil, Scottish cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, said the allocation is insufficient to provide broadband across the country, even by matching the investment with private money.

"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," Neil said on Tuesday. "For instance, the cost to deliver next-generation broadband across the Highlands and Islands alone has been estimated at up to £300m, therefore we do not regard the UK Government's allocation as a realistic contribution to meet Scotland's broadband requirements."

Neil also said that the Scottish Government will be making its own investments in improving broadband, partially through the introduction of a 'Next Generation Digital Fund', which it hopes will attract further private funding. The Scottish government will be contacting Hunt in an attempt to secure more money, he added.

"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," Neil added. "I will be writing to Mr Hunt today to clarify this point."

Funding calculation

However, the DCMS said it calculated the figures based on need, and that the nearly £70m allocation should be enough to carry out the work.

"The funding allocations are based on need. We have assessed the number of premises in each area that do not currently get a decent broadband service and how much it will cost to remedy this," a spokesman for the DCMS said.

Jon Freeman, head of wireless at communication infrastructure and media services company Arqiva, said that some counties in England could also struggle with insufficient allocations.

"There is a concern that certain local authorities will be limited in what they can do with the relatively small sums received. The economy of scale for network deployment, coupled with an expensive procurement exercise, points to the need for a collaborative approach between local authorities to maximise the utility of the funding," Freeman said. "We believe a more regionally based approach to broadband procurement will serve communities better."

Counties in England were allocated a total of £295m, while Northern Ireland was given just £4.4m, less than one percent of the total fund.

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