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SNP 2017 Manifesto Reiterates Superfast Broadband for All by 2021 Pledge

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 (12:25 pm) - Score 840

The Scottish National Party (Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta na h-Alba) has today published details of their 2017 Manifesto for the UK’s 8th June General Election, which reiterates last year’s pledge to ensure that 100% of Scotland can access a superfast broadband (30Mbps+) service by 2021.

The existing £410m Digital Scotland scheme with BT (Openreach) has already made fixed line superfast broadband available to approximately 90% of premises and the aim is to reach “around” 95% with “high speed fibre broadband” by the end of March 2018 (confusingly today’s manifesto reiterates the old “end of 2017” date for this – see below). We should point out that this coverage target drops to just 86% for the rural Highland and Islands region by the end of 2017 (here), although clawback and savings might yet provide another boost (here).

More recently the SNP ruled Scottish Government, which is headed by Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister), has published their 2017 Digital Strategy for Scotland. This document reiterated last year’s R100 proposal by committing them to “extend superfast broadband access to all by 2021, while encouraging the growth of ultrafast services.”

Unsurprisingly the SNP’s new manifesto holds no surprises and echoes the same aspiration.

Building a better Scotland: our investment in infrastructure

* We have invested £400 million to deliver superfast broadband to 95 per cent of properties across Scotland by the end of 2017, and we are on track to deliver this target. We will now go further, ensuring that 100 per cent of premises across Scotland have access to super-fast broadband by 2021.

However there is an interesting point on page 39 of the manifesto, where the party appears to suggest that their new target for 100% coverage might actually involve adopting it as a legally-binding Universal Service Obligation (USO); this would be a much more challenging proposition to deliver.

On the other hand the language they use suggests that the proposed USO is more about political lobbying at Westminster than something that they will unilaterally adopt in Scotland (they’ve already tried this once). We also get a few fleeting mentions of improved mobile connectivity but sadly not in the form of a solid target.

Improving rural connectivity

At Westminster the SNP successfully secured a UK government commitment to a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband of 10Mbps. In the next parliamentary term SNP MPs will call for the USO to cover up to 30Mbps with an appropriate update mechanism to ensure that rural areas are not left behind.

Some of our more rural areas remain so called mobile “not spots” – where there is little or limited mobile phone signal. SNP MPs will support the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity to host a summit on mobile “not spots”, inviting service providers and the UK government to put forward concrete actions for improving mobile connectivity across Scotland.

SNP MPs will call on the UK government to ensure that future mobile spectrum licensing meets key tests on geographical and population coverage, with a ‘rural areas first’ policy for new spectrum deployments.

Scotland is a country that has no shortage of rugged rural terrain and sparse communities, which are beautiful to look at but also an economic nightmare to upgrade. A huge amount of public investment would be required to deliver on such an ambitious plan via fixed lines and it’s unclear where this money would come from, although a public consultation is still due to begin before the end of June 2017 (it’s unclear if the snap election will delay that).

On the other hand the SNP could fall-back on more Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solutions or inferior Satellite broadband connectivity, which would be cheaper. Unsurprisingly their manifesto doesn’t offer any solid details on the deliverability side but there will probably have to be some sacrifices in connection technology in order to achieve the stated goal. However at least the SNP have actually set a target for universal coverage, which is positive.

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar mazy says:

    What a surprise. SNP making a pledge they can’t afford and will most likely be heavily subsidised by the rest of the UK. FYI I’m Scottish

    1. Avatar Dan says:

      Mazy, Haven’t you got anything better to talk about?

  2. Avatar David says:

    (Disclosure – I’m a Scot who’s completely against the SNP and everything they stand for).

    Why 30meg – it’s already obsolete, FTTC is a joke for the highlands where most houses are many miles away from the cabinet, the solution, build more cabinets, but in all realism when there’s so much open ground / farmland, why aren’t they pushing a scheme where they subsidise direct FTTP.

    This approach will get even worse as we move to g.fast (what an absolute joke of a name) which will fall off with the further distances most houses are from the exchange.

    I don’t blame just the SNP but politicians in general, we electrified the Highland glen’s away back in the 40s and 50s, why the hell is putting fibre in any different!

    1. Avatar Dan says:

      David, why don’t you look at positives rather than spitting out a load of negative crap.

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