Fergus Ewing: Superfast broadband rollout is a big hit

We want to extend superfast broadband access to every home and business in Scotland by the end of 2021, says connectivity minister Fergus Ewing

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy & Connectivity 

Fergus Ewing. Picture: TSPL
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy & Connectivity Fergus Ewing. Picture: TSPL

Ambitious, ground-breaking and innovative. Just a few of the words that describe the £428 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme.

Across Scotland, crews deploying fibre have weathered the cold and numerous storms – laying over 11,000 km. That’s enough to stretch from Edinburgh to Singapore! They have also stood over 4,600 green cabinets, making fibre broadband available to hundreds of communities all over the country.

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This investment and commitment, delivered through a partnership approach involving Scottish Government, UK Government, local authorities, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and BT Openreach, has ensured that we not only delivered on our target to provide access to 95 per cent of premises to fibre broadband by the end of 2017, but exceeded it.

This hard work and deployment won’t stop. Thanks to additional investment and new funding generated by stronger-than-expected take-up, the programme will continue to provide more access during 2018 and into 2019, complementing ongoing commercial build across Scotland.

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As one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe, the DSSB programme has delivered on time and on budget. Using innovative new technology, including fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology, without DSSB, only 66 per cent of premises would have fibre broadband access. In fact, over 93 per cent of homes and businesses can now benefit from superfast broadband of speeds of 30Mbps and above.

Fast and reliable broadband is key to communities across Scotland. We all expect more flexibility, reliability, and faster speeds when downloading or sharing files and streaming videos with colleagues, friends or family; and businesses rightly expect reliable connectivity to allow them to stay connected with customers and colleagues, whilst providing them a platform to transform the way they work, creating more elegant solutions to modern business problems.

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This week I’m helping to highlight these benefits by kicking off the ‘Up your Street’ campaign. As it weaves around the country, the campaign will highlight that faster and more reliable broadband is available across Scotland.

To take advantage and reap the benefits, people need to sign up with a service provider. There are frequently good affordable deals available from a variety of different providers.

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People who have benefited thanks to the programme, include Iain Burnett from Grantully outside Pitlochry. Iain is a chocolatier, and since getting connected to fibre broadband, he has seen a transformation to his business, resulting in better quality of service for visitors to his shop and an increase in website hits.

Whilst Iain’s example is great, I am acutely aware that there are many people who still do not have access, particularly in rural areas. That is why the Scottish Government is investing £600 million in the initial phase of our Reaching 100 per cent (R100) programme, to build on the success of DSSB by extending superfast broadband access to every home and business in Scotland by the end of 2021 – the only part of the UK to do so.

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So if you haven’t already, sign up to faster broadband and enjoy the benefits it is delivering.

• Fergus Ewing is the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity