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Scottish Government Slams Westminster over UK Small City Broadband Funds

Monday, May 28th, 2012 (1:47 pm) - Score 743

The Scottish Government has today criticised the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which is managed by the increasingly embattled Culture Secretary (Jeremy Hunt MP), for excluding the smaller cities of Inverness, Glasgow and Stirling in Scotland from their £50m second wave of Urban Broadband Funding (UBF).

A shortlist of 27 smaller cities, which will all be able to bid for a slice of the £50 million, was announced earlier this month (full summary). The extra cash is designed to help 10 of chosen cities roll-out “ultrafast” fibre optic based 80-100Mbps+ (Megabits per second) broadband services into areas “not [already being] served by the private sector” (i.e. where BT and Virgin Media will not go).

Unfortunately the eligibility criteria states that cities can only bid if they have a Royal Charter and more than 45,000 homes and businesses (35,000+ in Northern Ireland). As a result Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth will be the only Scottish cities eligible to apply, with Inverness and Stirling being excluded under the above criteria. Glasgow is big enough but it failed to win in the first round of £100m funding for larger cities (here) and is thus ineligible to apply again.

Alex Neil MSP, Scotlands Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, said:

While I welcome the news that Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth are eligible to apply for this crucial funding, it is still disappointing that all of our cities are not able to benefit.

Inverness, as capital of the Highlands, is surely an ideal candidate for this fund. Similarly Stirling could benefit hugely from being able to bid for this funding. I have asked Mr Hunt to look again at how the Urban Broadband Fund could work in Scotland, whether Scotland could be allocated a proportion of this fund, we could ensure all of our cities could benefit effectively.

The Scottish Government will go on driving forward our plans to deliver faster broadband for the whole country and investing substantially with the funding we control. This extra money from the Urban Broadband Fund would be a real boost on the back of our Procurement Plan, which I announced earlier this week and is a crucial step forward in our work to roll out faster internet access across Scotland.”

Naturally a lot of cities that have been excluded could stand to benefit, had they won (not just those in Scotland), although the rules must be fair for all. On the other hand this debate somewhat overshadows the far larger problems with putting public money into areas that the Private Sector should already be able to do.

Not to mention that £50m is ultimately little more than a drop in the ocean for such cities, although it would be match-funded with local and private sector investment in a way that could at least double the budget. The UK government is expected to make a final choice before an official announcement in the Autumn Statement.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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