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Scotland Unveil New Superfast Rural Broadband Voucher Scheme UPDATE

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020 (3:52 pm) - Score 4,094
scotland 3d broadband map uk

The Scottish Government has this afternoon revealed the details of their new voucher scheme, which aims to help “ensure superfast broadband access for all” by provide funding of up to £5,000 to help homes and businesses not in scope of either their R100 contracts or commercial roll-outs to obtain a 30Mbps+ capable connection.

By now most people should be aware that Scotland has already awarded two out of its three contracts under their £579m Reaching 100% (R100) – Central (LOT 2) and Southern (LOT 3) – to BT (Openreach). Meanwhile an on-going legal challenge by UK ISP Gigaclear against the proposed award of LOT 1 (North Scotland / Highlands) to BT continues to delay that part of the roll-out (here).

NOTE: R100 focuses on the final 5-6% of premises without access to 30Mbps+ broadband or any future upgrade plans. The LOT 2 contract will upgrade at least 47,000 of these, while LOT 3 will do around 26,000.

The majority of Openreach’s build, excluding LOT 1, should be completed by the end of 2023 (LOT 3 by summer 2024) and almost all of this is expected to be delivered using gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology (see here and here).

As for everybody else, the new Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme will provide funding of up to £5,000 to help premises not in scope of either the R100 contracts or planned commercial investment to obtain superfast broadband where ISPs may not ordinarily go. Smaller “interim vouchers” of up to £400 are also being made available for premises where 30Mbps+ is planned for after the end of 2021 – with an additional £250 for those in the hardest-to-reach areas (this is partly intended to help cover for the LOT 1 delays).

Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s Connectivity Minister, said:

“Digital Connectivity has played a vital role in supporting our efforts to keep people safe during the Covid-19 lockdown and will be pivotal in plans for our strategic economic recovery from the pandemic.

Work is underway to build the infrastructure which will underpin R100, backed by Scottish Government funding of £579M. This, together with commercially-driven work, will ensure the vast majority of homes and businesses across the country can access superfast broadband access by the end of 2021.

But Scotland has some of the most challenging locations anywhere in Europe for providing telecoms infrastructure and I have always been clear that additional measures may still be needed to provide superfast access to some of the hardest-to-reach areas.

That is why we have been developing plans in parallel with the main infrastructure investment to ensure our 100% commitment is met, and the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme offering a level of funding far exceeding that of any other broadband voucher scheme currently in operation within the UK, will ensure that everyone can access and benefit from this world-leading digital capability.”

The claim that this scheme offers a “level of funding far exceeding that of any other broadband voucher scheme currently in operation within the UK” is only partly correct, not least because the Welsh Government recently began offering vouchers worth up to £7,000, albeit only for businesses (residential properties get up to £3,000 – here).

Meanwhile the “interim vouchers” in Scotland, which have been given a smaller value of up to £400 – £650, seem unlikely to go very far in the remotest areas, at least not with fixed line broadband solutions. The press release doesn’t state it, but we recall reading that these vouchers could also be used alongside other technologies (here), such as satellite, fixed wireless access or mobile broadband (4G / 5G) solutions.

On top of all this the SG has also launched a new online postcode checker – https://www.scotlandsuperfast.com, which is designed to give homes and businesses information on the superfast roll-out in their area, as well as providing information on voucher scheme eligibility. However, some of the tests we ran with this produced error messages, such as via postcodes PH18 5UW and IV22 2EE (Firefox Web Browser) – “Sorry, we’ve encountered an unexpected error. Press the ‘Back’ button to start again.”

So far as we can tell the new voucher scheme will actually go live in September 2020 and today is more of a soft launch. The scheme is welcome, although what many people are really waiting for is an outcome to the Gigaclear case so that LOT 1 can move forward.

UPDATE 29th August 2020

The SG has revealed some costings for the new voucher scheme and it’s not going to be cheap.

Paul Wheelhouse said:

“We believe the overall cost estimate for the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme as a whole is between £26.4 million and £50.7 million over a five-year period. That’s based on between 20 and 40 per cent take-up.

We’ve obviously had to make some estimates based on modelling to understand the kind of demand we might face so it is something we will keep under review and stress monitor on a regular basis, so if it looks like it is getting out of hand, we’ll be coming back to the rural connectivity committee probably to inform you of that and keep you posted.”

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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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20 Responses
  1. Avatar JTScotland says:

    interesting to see whether the £5k is applicable to residential or just business premises?

    Can it be combined with RGVS?

    What if 4G is expected in the near future? Can it be used for initial installation or complex installations for mobile broadband set-ups?

    1. Avatar Billy says:

      The message you get back states commercial,
      It states

      There aren’t plans to build a faster connection in your area at the moment. But the good news is there are other options to speed things up at your address. you may be able to get a superfast broadband voucher.

      Being able to get faster internet speeds can make it easier to videocall loved ones, watch shows online, work from home, and more – without any hiccups.

      That’s why you may be able to get up to £5000 from the Scottish Government in the form of a superfast broadband voucher. You can use it for the cost of fitting a new, faster commercial broadband supply. Options could include things like fibre, wireless and more.

      You can find out more about options available to you and how to apply for a voucher here

  2. Avatar Ogilvie Jackson says:

    R100 online checker please , to see who will need these vouchers .

  3. Avatar Max says:

    That checking tool is not accurate at all, just ran a test and got:

    ‘Your address can now get superfast broadband.

    The Scottish Government has been informed that a superfast connection has been built in your area. Exciting times.’

    Due to my 6 kilometre distance to the node, I 100% can’t get it and no ISP offers it. Just imagine this meant I wasn’t included in R100 even though I’m on 1Mbps ADSL2+.

    1. Avatar A Friend says:

      Complete an enquiry to challenge the result: https://www.scotlandsuperfast.com/factsheets-and-faqs/faqs/

  4. Avatar Lewis says:

    this is strange considering on their previous checker i was “in scope” for FTTP but now apparently there is no plans to upgrade my area (at all).

    1. Avatar Ian says:

      My property has also changed from “FTTH in scope” to no plans for your area. Yet most of my neighbours including one neighbour fed from the same overhead telephone pole as me shows as being upgraded by end 2021.

      I hope the database is being pessimistic or isn’t fully accurate…

  5. Avatar Adam says:

    Is the checker not working for anyone else? Keep getting

    “Sorry, we’ve encountered an unexpected error. Press the ‘Back’ button to start again.”

    1. Avatar Craski says:

      Not working for me either. Postcode not recognised.
      Not surprised really, Digital Scotland never have never been able to deliver a useful checker, so this is pretty normal for them.

    2. Avatar Adam says:

      I’ve tried a few other postcodes scattered throughout Scotland but keep getting the same error. I’ll check back again in a few days.

    3. Avatar Adam says:

      Working now. Thought i’d give it another go before bed and all seems good

    4. Avatar Brian says:

      Seems to be working for me, and as I’m lucky enough to be after 2021 I can apply for £400, which will achieve a lot

    5. Avatar craski says:

      Now working for me too. Still confirmed as no plans (I’m in a Lot 1 area).

  6. Avatar Gary says:

    Yeah, I get ‘There aren’t any plans to build blah blah at the moment’ you may be able to get a voucher.

    Possible that’s because the Lot 1 process is stalled ?

    Or I’m not covered under R100, This new checker was supposed to give clarity ref which properties were in scope or not, still seems as vague as the last one.

  7. Avatar craski says:

    It’d be interesting to hear if anybody in a Lot 1 area gets a result from the checker other than the “There are no plans for your area” response

  8. Avatar Mark says:

    Lot2 here, first time I’ve ever seen even the slightest sniff of broadband improvement for our village:

    “Good news.

    Your address should be able to get superfast broadband by the end of 2021.

    That’s because a new superfast connection is being built in your area. It’s part of the Scottish Government’s broadband improvement scheme. Exciting stuff.”

  9. Avatar Billy says:

    Seems the £5000 is marked for commercial only, I have applied just in case, still not sure what I can hope hope for as FOD may be delivered for under 5k but probably £300 per month to use.

    Heres the message you get in full
    There aren’t plans to build a faster connection in your area at the moment. But the good news is there are other options to speed things up at your address. you may be able to get a superfast broadband voucher.

    Being able to get faster internet speeds can make it easier to videocall loved ones, watch shows online, work from home, and more – without any hiccups.

    That’s why you may be able to get up to £5000 from the Scottish Government in the form of a superfast broadband voucher. You can use it for the cost of fitting a new, faster commercial broadband supply. Options could include things like fibre, wireless and more.

    You can find out more about options available to you and how to apply for a voucher here

  10. Avatar David McDonald says:

    I have received a list of Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme Registered Suppliers and notice Openreach are not on the list.

    Have Openreach applied to be a SBVS Registered Supplier? What’s going on?

    The following link will take you to the list of registered suppliers. Here you can browse the geographic areas that each one covers and the solutions that they offer. https://broadband.gov.scot/supplier-listing.

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