Greater ambition is needed for the future of broadband in Scotland, according to a report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee.
The report identifies the key issues relating to broadband in Scotland and examines the Scottish Government’s action plan for developing broadband infrastructure.
Whilst the committee welcomed the positive action already taken, the report makes it clear that further steps are necessary if Scotland is to have a digital infrastructure to meet the needs of both business and consumers.
Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP said: “The ability to access fast broadband connections is becoming more and more important in all aspects of our lives.
"A reliable and fast broadband connection helps socially but it is especially crucial in enabling businesses to be able to compete on the world stage.
"High-quality digital infrastructure in Scotland is essential and our committee welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to delivering this.
“We received evidence from a wide range of individuals, communities and businesses concerned about unreliable and slow internet connections.
"These issues were shown to have a particularly detrimental effect on small and medium-sized businesses outside the main urban centres of Scotland.
“To ensure that Scotland has the broadband services it needs, ambitious targets for the roll out of broadband infrastructure are needed, with a target of delivering a world-class broadband infrastructure to 100% of Scotland’s population by 2020.”
The committee intends to monitor closely the implementation of the Scottish Government’s action plan, and other key issues from the report.
Key issues noted by the committee include:
- public investment in broadband infrastructure should only be made where it is clear there is no potential for the market to deliver
- to ensure that rural areas in Scotland are not left behind, the Scottish Government’s objective should be enhanced to deliver a world-class digital infrastructure throughout Scotland (i.e. to 100% of the population) by 2020
- the Scottish Government’s strategy must include clear guidelines for service delivery across Scotland so as to avoid a patchwork of broadband services; and must also include programmes of community engagement to encourage take up and identify specific local needs
- the chosen infrastructure solutions must be future-proofed, provide an open access network, and emphasise the need for a mixed-technology approach for Scotland.
Other key issues identified by the committee in the report were:
- the Scottish Government’s broadband targets for 2020 must be more ambitious in order to ensure that rural areas in Scotland are not left further behind, and need to offer greater clarity to local communities and businesses about the level of broadband service that they can expect for their areas in the future
- aggregation of services to make them more commercially attractive should be balanced with the need to maintain flexibility to address local requirements
- the BDUK Mobile Infrastructure Project to eradicate mobile ‘not-spots’ and the 4G auction will be crucial and they must result in a substantial increase in mobile coverage in Scotland
- to encourage innovation, any barriers created by the regulatory and planning frameworks should be identified and removed wherever possible, and the ‘seed fund’ should utilise the expertise and experience of the industry
- efforts to increase broadband take-up should be targeted at those groups or geographical areas where take-up has so far been particularly low, such as the over-55s, small and medium-sized businesses, and parts of Glasgow
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has said that if it is left to the private sector alone then superfast broadband will not reach around one-third of UK households and businesses.
The Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Digital Future – Infrastructure Action Plan outlines the Government’s objectives in developing a broadband infrastructure.
- by 2015, to deliver broadband speeds of 40-80Mbps for 85% to 90% of premises in Scotland, and to deliver the best possible speeds for those where delivery of 40-80Mbps is not possible
- by 2020, to deliver world-class digital infrastructure for Scotland.