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Scottish Government moots post-Independence broadband for all

The Scottish Government has announced it will consider rolling out broadband to all corners of an independent Scotland. 

Should Scotland vote Yes in September, the Scottish Government would create a Rural Connectivity Commission which would look at providing broadband and digital services to all, as well as set prices for fuel and improving postal and transport links. 

In the absence of a USO (Universal Service Obligation) being handed to a company like BT to provide broadband all up and down the UK, the Scottish Government wants to look at how the digital divide can be crossed in Scotland. 

Fibre to the Peaks: The Outer Hebrides has already benefitted from rollout of fibre and wireless broadband
Fibre to the Peaks: The Outer Hebrides has already benefitted from rollout of fibre and wireless broadband

There are no details on what kind of broadband – superfast or otherwise – would be rolled out from Gretna Green to the Shetlands in the Government’s 12-page report, how it would be funded or even when universal coverage might happen. 

In the meantime, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the release of an extra £2.5 million for CBS (Community Broadband Scotland), which focusses on improving connections in hard-to-reach rural areas. 

Sturgeon said: “We are making this investment in remote and rural communities across Scotland to enable them to establish their own community broadband networks. 

“The Community Broadband Scotland programme is an important part of our work in empowering local communities, through this programme they can control their own digital destiny alongside the major infrastructure investment through our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme.” 

The money will go towards CBS, which is already working with 75 rural community projects and was set up to help areas which wouldn’t be covered by the Digital Scotland or Highland & Islands plans. 

Under these two schemes, 95 per cent of Scottish premises will be able to get superfast broadband from 2017 onwards. Those in the 5 per cent stand to get a basic at least 2Mbps service, which will be just (just) enough to let people stream Netflix, but not what you’d call future-proof. 

The UK Government has invited bids from ISPs looking to deliver superfast connections to the five per cent across the whole of Great Britain, using a variety of technologies ranging from satellite broadband to FTTP (Fibre to the Premises). This £10 million project is currently in a trial phase and how exactly it will benefit Scotland isn’t known. 

The Scottish Government’s report also says it would consider making it an obligation for network providers to improve 4G coverage in patchy areas, something which the UK Government is already doing with the Mobile Infrastructure Project

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