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Scotland’s Rural Minister to Quit if R100 Broadband Target Missed

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018 (10:40 am) - Score 1,421
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The Scottish Government‘s Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, has pledged to quit if he fails to deliver on the new £600m R100 project, which aspires to make “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) ISP networks available to “every single premise in Scotland” by the end of 2021 (here and here); March 2022 as a financial year.

The existing £428m Digital Scotland (DSSB) project with BT (Openreach) has already helped to make 30Mbps+ capable networks available to around 93% of premises across the country (here), which has helped an additional 890,000 premises to gain access to faster connectivity. Meanwhile the new R100 programme is expected to follow-on from this programme and begin deployment in 2019.

Several suppliers including BT, Gigaclear, Axione and SSE Enterprise Telecoms are known to be bidding on the new contract, although at present this only states that there will be 178,948 premises eligible for intervention across three regional lots. But previous reports have predicted that around 280,000 premises could be left without access to superfast broadband by total completion of the existing DSSB project (still deploying through 2018).

Suffice to say that Fergus Ewing, who was speaking to the Scottish Land & Estates conference (Herald Scotland), might have just talked himself into a difficult corner.

Fergus Ewing MSP said:

“If I don’t deliver this by 2021, I think it will be time for Fergus Ewing to depart and do something else, and leave the job to somebody else. But I can assure you, we’re on the case.”

Fergus also used the opportunity to take a quick snipe at the UK Government’s “stingy” financial contribution to Scotland’s broadband programme, which has tended to come via the wider Broadband Delivery UK scheme (BDUK committed just over £100m to the original contract and only £20.99m for the current procurement).

At present we still don’t know precisely what will be achieved by R100 and the answer to that depends upon the chosen supplier(s), as well as what sort of technology mix may be used. However the proposed completion timescale of 2021/22 is incredibly tight and to reach those in the final 1% within the allotted time may encourage adoption of an inferior quick-fix solution, such as Satellite.

Meanwhile there’s still the potential for some conflict between Scotland’s R100 programme and the UK government’s proposed minimum download speed of 10Mbps via their legally binding Universal Service Obligation (USO), which isn’t due to be introduced until 2020 and even then it will only be available “on request“.

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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3 Responses
  1. Avatar Alan

    “Fergus Ewing, has pledged to quit if he fails to deliver on the new £600m R100 project, which aspires to make “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) ISP networks available to “every single premise in Scotland” by the end of 2021”

    Er.. bit arrogant to assume after the May 2021 Scottish Elections he will still be in a job to see it to completion, let alone have the choice to quit. Maybe he has a time machine?

    Either way a bit silly to promise such things when ultimately it will be down to whoever is handed the contract for the work. Hopefully Scotlands rural club is not like my and many other NON-Rural towns where the FTTC date was put back several times.

  2. Avatar Nick

    I guess they mean “premises”

  3. Avatar craski

    “the allotted time may encourage adoption of an inferior quick-fix solution, such as Satellite.”

    Can you imagine waiting ~10 years for a better internet connection and then being offered Satellite. That would be an epic fail!

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