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Overview - Scotlands 25m GBP Universal Broadband Coverage

Posted: 19th May, 2009 By: MarkJ
Analysts at Point Topic UK have published an informative overview of the Scottish Government's apparently successful Universal Service Commitment on broadband, which cost just £25 million to achieve. Unlike the 2Mbps USO proposed by Lord Carter, Scotland's 0.5Mbps (512Kbps) is in place now and provides virtually 100% coverage. In principle, anybody has been able to get at least 0.5Mbps at an affordable price if they want it.

Reaching such wide coverage in a country which includes some of the least populated areas in Western Europe has been a major feat,” points out Tim Johnson, Chief Analyst at Point Topic. “It may not be how everyone would choose to spend the money, but I think it has a huge symbolic importance for Scotland. Bringing broadband and modernity to even the most remote corners demonstrates the unity and cohesion of the national territory.

Figure 1: Exchanges with government broadband intervention in Scotland

2009 Scotland broadband coverage map
ADSL MAX SSI - ADSL Max broadband platform provided by Scottish Government Supply-Side Intervention.

CC – Broadband fixed wireless networks covering the Western Isles (Connected Communities) and Tiree.

BT – Exchanges where full broadband is provided by BT without government intervention.

EA SSI – Exchange Activate broadband platform provided by Scottish Government Supply-Side Intervention
In addition, the Scottish Government is spending another £102 million on the Pathfinder Project, which will provide broadband connectivity to over 1250 public buildings in remote areas. The work shows that universal broadband service can be achieved, at least up to the level of 0.5Mbps, and the cost need not be huge.

However, the numbers of people being reached by these initiatives is small. Broadband for Scotland covers about 150,000 people with a take-up of some 36,000 residential and business lines as of mid-2008; this has required an investment of about £450 per line. Connected Communities shows a cost of about £3,400 per line and Broadband Reach is budgeted for an average of £870 per line.

Still, while Scotland's efforts should be celebrated, 0.5Mbps is not nearly fast enough to handle the content rich nature of a modern Internet environment, where high quality online video and download services are flourishing. Thankfully the forthcoming Digital Britain report will target a 2Mbps USO, but finding a flexible, reliable and affordable way to deliver that is proving to be quite complicated.
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