Scottish Government
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Better broadband for all

Ensuring access for all to next generation high-speed broadband by 2020 is a key priority for rural Scotland, Richard Lochhead said today.

Today's parliamentary debate on Rural Connectivity highlighted the need for rural Scotland to be included in the digital revolution for high-speed broadband and 4G mobile coverage.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

"We want all parts of rural Scotland to have access to next generation broadband to ensure a bright future for our rural economy. We believe that a world-class broadband infrastructure will underpin the future of the digital economy in Scotland.

"We have set out our ambition for all of Scotland to have access to next generation broadband by 2020, with significant progress to be made by 2015. Meeting the challenge of delivering this service to rural areas in particular is a key priority of our Digital Strategy.

"The UK Government has allocated £530 million to the rollout of next generation broadband for rural areas. We are working hard to secure the best possible share for Scotland from this. We need to ensure that a lack of ambition from the UK Government does not lead to rural Scotland missing out on the digital revolution. This is vitally important to help bring global markets to our doorstep and create new opportunities for rural businesses.

"Better mobile coverage is also essential. Scotland's 3G coverage is only at around 66 per cent of the population and 41 per cent geographically - well below the UK average.

"We have urged the UK Government to direct Ofcom to increase the obligation for 3G coverage in Scotland, as a large proportion of the areas currently not covered across Britain are in rural Scotland. We wanted 90 per cent of Scotland to be covered, matched to 90 per cent of the UK. But if that's not immediately achievable, then we at least should have a specific target for coverage in Scotland.

"We will continue to do all we can within our powers to help promote improved mobile phone and broadband coverage for our rural areas.

"The UK Government position on mobile does not currently meet the needs of rural Scotland and we will continue to press for them to work with us to develop the 4G network, to overcome many of the current problems.

"Connecting rural Scotland to a twenty-first century communications network is essential to connect it to the world, bringing benefits to the rural economy and community as a whole."

It is envisaged that the roll-out of next generation broadband to rural Scotland can be achieved through a small number of regional broadband projects. Two regional projects are already under development in the Highlands and Islands and the south of Scotland.

Scotland's Digital Future: A Strategy for Scotland was published in March and sets out in detail how the Scottish Government intends to achieve its digital ambition.

Our Rural Future is the Scottish Government's response to the consultation Speak up for Scotland and sets out the main priorities needed to make rural Scotland even more successful.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is leading and managing the first of the regional broadband pilots. It is one of four UK projects to benefit from UK Government broadband funding, following a successful bid by the Scottish Government. The project will aim to deliver next generation broadband to around fifty towns and communities spread all over the region. This includes key population centres, areas of low employment, and towns within fragile areas and connectivity improvements should be delivered in the region within twelve to eighteen months.

A co-operative association between Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Enterprise is developing a strategic broadband plan for the south of Scotland. The project is being championed by the Chief Executives of the two councils, who are fully behind the efforts of the project team. The Annan Next Generation Broadband Pilot is exploring how the existing Pathfinder network available to public sector buildings can be opened up to the wider rural community in Annan. The Scottish Government has provided £240,000 towards the Annan project.

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