Broadband speeds in Scotland will be ramped to an average of 40Mbps by 2015 with a heavy investment from the public purse, a report from the Scottish Government has proposed.
Scotland’s Digital Future - Infrastructure Action Plan sets out the ambition that 85-95 percent of the country’s consumers and businesses should be able to access this level of performance three years from now, with many able to receive up to 80Mbps.
By 2020 the country should be in a position to offer the population “world class” broadband, the report said, the definition of which will depend on the development of broadband technologies globally but likely to mean speeds well in excess of 100Mbps.
The Scottish Government said it would set up a Digital Programme Office to feed in public funds from a variety of sources, including £68.8 million from the UK Government’s Broadband delivery UK (BDUK) fund, £40 million set aside by local authorities, and £25.5 million of EU money.
The Scottish Government would top this up with £79.5 million from its own coffers, giving a total fund of £143.8 million.
The report underlines the view that the current model of private sector broadband deployment can’t deliver high-speed access widely enough across a country with the physical footprint of England but only a tenth of its population.
Average broadband speeds in Scotland are much the same as for the UK as a whole, around 7Mbit/s, but getting that to stage one FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) level, 40 Mbps, will be no easy task taking into account the rural nature of Scotland.
Most of the country's population live in the central belt and up the east coast to Aberdeen, confirmed by the report's identified hotspots for decent broadband speeds (defined as being at least 24Mbps), which show up as isolated dots of black on a vast expanse of gray covering most of the country.
“Our relationship with the private sector will also be based on a fair and equitable partnership, ensuring everyone gets a fair return on their investment and ensuring we get value for every pound of public money invested,” said the report.
Decoded, that means that carriers such as BT will also have to stump up to spread those black dots further afield.
The pay-off for pumped-up broadband will be an explosion in the economics of cloud computing, long-distance collaboration, remote access, and an expansion in businesses that sell sophisticated online content, the report said.
As to mobile access, the report also argues that Scotland should get money from the UK Government’s £150 million ‘not spot’ fund to patch holes in the country’s relatively poor rural mobile infrastructure.
The Scottish Government will produce a procurement plan by March 2012 with the first contracts awarded in the first half of 2013.