The Scottish government has announced details of a voucher scheme that will help all citizens access superfast broadband by the end of next year, after failing to hit the target through its main infrastructure project.
The Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme, as it is known, will provide up to £5,000 to help connect homes and businesses that fall outside the currently planned infrastructure.
The government is spending nearly £600m on its Reaching 100% (R100) project, which involves building infrastructure to ensure the “vast majority” of people in Scotland have access to superfast broadband. It aims to provide 30Mbps (megabits per second) broadband to every home and business in Scotland by 2021, but in January 2020 the SNP government admitted it would fail to meet the ambitious target.
Scotland’s minister for connectivity, Paul Wheelhouse, conceded at the time that only half of the population would have superfast broadband by the end of next year, and that it was likely to be the end of 2023 before the initial ambitious target would be met.
It has now announced a scheme to ensure those who fall outside the project will have access to the same level of broadband, providing funding of up to £5,000 to help homes and businesses not in scope.
Interim vouchers of up to £400 are being made available for premises where superfast broadband is planned to be available after the end of 2021, with an additional £250 for those in the hardest-to-reach areas.
Wheelhouse said digital connectivity had played an important part in keeping people safe during the Covid-19 lockdown and was vital for economic recovery.
“Work is underway to build the infrastructure which will underpin R100, backed by Scottish government funding. This, together with commercially-driven work, will ensure the vast majority of homes and businesses across the country can access superfast broadband by the end of 2021,” he added.
“But Scotland has some of the most challenging locations anywhere in Europe for providing telecoms infrastructure, and I have always been clear that additional measures may still be needed to provide superfast access to some of the hardest-to-reach areas.
“That is why we have been developing plans in parallel with the main infrastructure investment to ensure our 100% commitment is met, and the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme – offering a level of funding far exceeding that of any other broadband voucher scheme currently in operation in the UK – will ensure that everyone can access and benefit from this world-leading digital capability.”
Research has revealed that every £1 invested in Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) has delivered an estimated £12 to the Scottish economy.
An R100 online postcode tracker is live now.