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Scotland Extends Interim Rural Broadband Voucher Scheme

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021 (8:49 am) - Score 552
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The Scottish Government has announced that their Interim Broadband Voucher Scheme, which forms part of the £600m Reaching 100% (R100) project and is designed to help rural premises in the hardest to reach areas get a faster connection installed, has been extended to 31st March 2022 (it was previously due to finish this month).

The R100 programme, which awarded all three of its delivery contracts to Openreach (BT), broadly aims to extend “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) connectivity across as much of the final c.5% of poorly served premises in Scotland as possible – the vast majority of this will be achieved by harnessing gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology.

However, total completion of all three LOTS isn’t expected until 2027 and some areas may still miss out, which is obviously a far cry from the Scottish Government’s original commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband coverage by the end of 2021.

In response, the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS) is being offered as somewhat of a backup, which provides vouchers worth up to £5,000 to connect those properties for which there is no roll-out of superfast broadband planned (rising to £6,500 with a top-up from the UK scheme). But in order to make it seem like they were still holding to the 2021 commitment, they also introduced a smaller interim scheme.

The Interim Voucher Scheme is a bit of an oddball in that it’s focused on “premises that are due to be connected by the R100 contracts or a commercial supplier after 2021” (i.e. duplicating some of R100’s public investment). Such premises can take a voucher worth up to £400 (plus an additional £250 in some of the hardest-to-reach areas), which can be used on satellite, fixed wireless, mobile broadband or fixed line solutions.

The good news is that this interim scheme will continue to be available for a little longer than planned and will now close on 31st March 2022. Take note that any applications submitted before this date should still be honoured, even if the delivery concludes after March.

Scottish Government Statement

As part of our commitment to deliver faster broadband to everyone in Scotland, we are delighted to announce the extension of our Reaching 100% (R100) Interim Voucher Scheme to 31 March 2022.

This extension will ensure that thousands more remote and rural homes and businesses across Scotland can apply for a subsidy of up to £400 towards their broadband connection – with an additional £250 for those in the hardest-to-reach areas.

The R100 interim voucher is available to all homes and businesses with speeds less than 30Mbps and where superfast broadband roll-out is planned, but unlikely to be delivered until after 31 December 2021.

Premises that are not expected to receive a superfast connection through either the R100 contracts or planned commercial investment will be eligible for a £5,000 main voucher. Applications for main vouchers will continue to be accepted after March 2022.

As the Scottish Government’s MSP, Kate Forbes, said last week: “The R100 Scottish broadband voucher scheme offers a voucher worth up to £400 to enable constituents to secure an interim superfast connection, thereby ensuring that everyone can access superfast broadband by the end of 2021.”

As useful as such vouchers might be, we do continue to take issue with the decision to represent the interim scheme as “ensuring that everyone can access superfast broadband by the end of 2021,” which is an interesting way of interpreting such things. If that were indeed the case, then every government could use the same trick to say “job done” and often without actually building anything.

The reality is that many people aren’t even aware that such schemes exist and, short of opting for a quick-fix via a satellite or mobile broadband solution (where viable), any associated applications that require a new network to be established could still take many months to actually be built or delivered (i.e. a lot of them won’t be ready until after 2021).

We note that SpaceX’s much improved LEO satellite network (Starlink), which is a potentially much more attractive option for such vouchers, isn’t currently available across much of the Highlands and that won’t change until some unspecified time in 2022 (i.e. if you make an order, they won’t ship it until this changes, and it’s unclear how that would impact the voucher eligibility). One other caveat here is with the £89 monthly rental, which is too expensive to be considered affordable for everybody.

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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.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Pip says:

    I doubt Starlink V2 will be ready by anytime in 2022. It needs a constellation of 20,000 satellites. Falcon 9 doesn’t have the payload to be able to deliver more than about 600 per year.
    Musk is relying on Starship with it’s 100 ton payload to deploy at scale with a launch every 2 weeks. He only has a licence for 4 Starship launches next year and that is dependant on the FAA Environmental Report being favourable.

  2. ian barker says:

    More smoke and mirrors from the Scottish government. We two tier digital exclusion in Scotland to the haven’s and the have nots. Please prioritise those with speeds under 5 Mbps rather than upgrading those who already have good speeds.

    1. Martin says:

      In case you hadn’t noticed, telephone/internet regulation is not devolved.

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