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Digital Scotland Confirm GBP17.8m Clawback Boost for Rural Broadband

Tuesday, Aug 11th, 2015 (12:32 pm) - Score 669

The £410m Digital Scotland project has become the latest to confirm a £17.8 million clawback (gain share) reinvestment boost, which will be used to extend the reach of high-speed broadband services into poorly served areas.

At present the state aid supported project is predominantly working with BT and aims to roll-out its new connectivity to 85% of Scottish premises by the end of March 2016 and 95% by the end of 2017. So far an additional 370,000 homes and businesses have already benefitted under the scheme and at completion this should hit around 750,000.

But one important aspect of the related contract relates to the clawback mechanism, which essentially requires BT to return part of the investment (currently worth up to £129m across the United Kingdom) when take-up of the new service passes beyond the 20% mark. We now know that Scotland’s share of this is £17.8 million.

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, said:

Today my Cabinet colleagues and I are visiting Ullapool, which is exactly the kind of place that will benefit hugely from this improvement to our digital infrastructure. Improved connectivity is a major priority for the Scottish Government, and a boost like this will allow the continued roll-out of this technology to an even greater number of rural areas.

We are working with BT to ensure that our investment in the DSSB programme extends coverage as far as possible; while, at the same time, getting clarity on which areas won’t be reached. This will allow these communities to work with Community Broadband Scotland to explore alternative solutions in parallel with DSSB roll-out.

We are now seeing huge strides forward in transforming the future of connectivity for Scotland’s rural communities and businesses, many of which would never have seen these kinds of connections through the commercial market.

This is another major step towards creating an infrastructure capable of supporting world class connectivity across Scotland by 2020.”

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland Director, added:

The fibre broadband roll-out is a real success story, and we’re delighted to be able to share that success with Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise by making £17.8 million available to help connect some of the hardest to reach homes and businesses.

The open network which we’re rolling out brings real choice to communities and this is helping to drive take-up which is key to the programme’s future.”

The last March 2015 data that we have for Scotland noted how take-up in related Digital Scotland areas for the Highlands and Islands was 11.6%, while in the “Rest of Scotland” area it stood at just 10.6%. Clearly uptake must have rocketed since then or perhaps they’re merely confirming the figure as part of a future expectation.

Crucially Scotland has yet to reveal its plans for extending coverage beyond the current targets. On top of that today’s press release also adds some confusion by saying that the current 95% coverage goal will be reached “by the end of 2017“, although in the editors notes this is actually said to be “March 2018“.

Also in the editors notes is a claim that Digital Scotland’s “Superfast Broadband take up performance is currently out stripping all other UK contracts and is now on a clear path to achieve at least 30% take up“. Mind you the last March 2015 take-up data suggests that quite a few English Local Authorities were well ahead of Scotland (here).

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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