Digital Scotland claws back £18m for superfast broadband

Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme receives an £18m funding boost to extend rural connectivity

The Scottish government’s £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme is to receive an extra £18m worth of funding to accelerate broadband roll-out in some of the hardest-to-reach rural communities in Scotland.

The funding announcement was made during a visit by the Scottish cabinet to Ullapool in the Highlands, which is one of a number of towns set to benefit from the extra cash.

The money has been released following the activation of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) claw-back mechanism – which will see BT return £129m of money it received from local authorities, to enable them to extend the roll-out of fibre broadband when take-up reached an agreed level of 20%.

“We’re delighted people have been quick to embrace the benefits. It’s great news that take-up in our first communities is directly helping us to bring better broadband to even more people,” said Stuart Robertson, director of digital at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), one of DSSB’s key actors.

“Improved connectivity is a major priority for the Scottish government, and a boost like this will allow the continued roll-out of this technology to an even greater number of rural areas,” added deputy first minister John Swinney.

“We are working with BT to ensure that our investment in the DSSB programme extends coverage as far as possible; while, at the same time, getting clarity on which areas won’t be reached. This will allow these communities to work with Community Broadband Scotland to explore alternative solutions in parallel with DSSB roll-out.

“We are now seeing huge strides forward in transforming the future of connectivity for Scotland’s rural communities and businesses, many of which would never have seen these kinds of connections through the commercial market,” said Swinney.

Scotland’s BDUK programme brings together both public and BT funding, and plans to pass 85% of premises in the country by March 2016. It has already seen 365,000 out of a targeted 750,000 premises passed by fibre broadband across Scotland and is on track to meet the national target of 95% of properties by December 2017. Openreach engineers are currently passing around 7,000 properties a week with fibre.

As a result of the higher-than-anticipated take-up rate to date, BT has made a new business case assumption of reaching 30% take-up in the parts of Scotland covered by the programme.

The operator said DSSB was currently outstripping every other BDUK contract in the country in terms of take-up, and was therefore on a clear path to hit that goal.

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