Plans for faster Scottish broadband speeds unveiled

Lan cable The plan sets out to achieve "world-class" digital infrastructure in Scotland by 2020

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Broadband internet could become five times faster in Scotland by 2015, according to a new plan to improve the country's digital infrastructure.

Consumer Focus Scotland said the target could be reached if commitments in the Scottish government's blueprint for digital services were met.

Ministers have already identified £185m of public funding to help fulfil pledges in the infrastructure plan.

They hope to boost that figure with investment from the private sector.

The Infrastructure Action Plan, unveiled by Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil, aims to achieve a "step-change" in broadband speeds by 2015 to try to tackle the current so-called digital divide.

It sets out to achieve "world-class digital access" to all of Scotland by 2020.

Under the plan, a £5m seed fund will be established by April to support local projects and "innovative solutions" that have the potential for large scale roll-out.

Mobile coverage

The plan also looks to improve mobile coverage across Scotland to ensure people have good access, wherever they are, to phone and data services from hand-held devices such as mobile and smart phones.

Start Quote

Consumers in Scotland want fast and reliable broadband services and to be able to keep pace with all the new fantastic technology developments the 21st century will offer.”

End Quote Annie McGovern Consumer Focus Scotland

The Scottish government said the ambition was for everyone to benefit from "a significant improvement" by 2015, with speeds of 40-80Mbps for up to 85%-90% of premises, with "an uplift in service" for the rest.

Current average UK broadband speeds are 6.8Mbps (megabits per second).

Annie McGovern, digital expert at Consumer Focus Scotland, said: "Consumers in Scotland want fast and reliable broadband services and to be able to keep pace with all the new fantastic technology developments the 21st century will offer.

"Having the right infrastructure in place is absolutely critical to doing this.

"These commitments by the Scottish government will, if they are delivered, ensure that by 2015, broadband speeds are at least five times faster, more action is taken to better connect our remote and rural communities and that Scotland can be at the forefront of embracing new technology."

Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil said: "There is no doubt that digital is the way forward and we relish the challenge to put Scotland at the forefront of the digital revolution and make world-class digital infrastructure a reality."

'Vitally important'

Scottish Labour's infrastructure spokesman Richard Baker said he welcomed the ambition to extend access to high-speed broadband throughout Scotland but added the plan failed to say how this would be achieved.

He said: "Delivering world-class infrastructure is crucial not only for our economy and the small businesses which rely on high-speed broadband to remain competitive, but it is vitally important in terms of social inclusion as well.

"Too many people in Scotland are excluded from using more and more online services because of their income or location. We do not believe the SNP's plan places anywhere near enough emphasis on extending broadband to these groups."

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