Reference Library – Scotland – Orkney Broadband

Scotland’s Broadband: Scottish Minister Responds to UK Government Criticism

In a Parliamentary Q&A session held last Thursday1 (14 September), Digital Minister Matt Hancock blamed the Scottish Government2 for Scotland’s alleged lack of accessibility to super-fast broadband. His comments came in response to a query raised by Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP to Orkney and Shetland, concerning poor broadband speeds in his constituency. Hancock said: “The Scottish Government have been the slowest of all of the different organisations around the country to contract the broadband that we so desperately need. That is why Scotland is behind. We are offering technical support, but they are behind every English county and behind both the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Government, and they need to get a move on.” Connectivity Minister to the Scottish Government, Fergus Ewing, issued a response to the accusations, claiming that they were “inaccurate,” and “wildly without any basis in fact.”

“The Digital Scotland Super-fast Broadband3 (DSSB) is, and always has been, due to complete its initial phase by the end of 2017, with extended build through Gainshare to be delivered during 2018,” he said. “It would quite simply have been inconceivable for us to have launched subsequent broadband procurements before the DSSB coverage footprint was nearing completion. This is a position that has been discussed and agreed with BDUK4 (Broadband Delivery UK) officials. “Alongside our partners, we have invested over ?400 million in Scotland’s Digital Super-fast Broadband programme, resulting in over 780,000 premises having access to fibre broadband and despite the unique geographical challenges Scotland contends with, the vast majority of those premises are capable of receiving super-fast speeds.” He added: “Ofcom’s5 Connected Nations Report 20166 highlighted that super-fast broadband coverage in Scotland had seen the largest increase across any of the UK nations in the previous 12 months. Indeed, without the investment in the DSSB programme, access across the country would only be at 66%, access in the Highlands would only be at 21%, and Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles would have no access to fibre broadband at all.

“The Scottish Government has chosen to act, and our commitment to deliver 100% super-fast broadband access by the end of 2021 is a unique commitment across the UK.

We are firmly of the view that our ambitious plan is the right one for Scotland’s economy and we will continue to urge the UK Government to match our ambition.”

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  1. ^ Parliamentary Q&A session held last Thursday (www.theyworkforyou.com)
  2. ^ Scottish Government (www.gov.scot)
  3. ^ Digital Scotland Super-fast Broadband (www.scotlandsuperfast.com)
  4. ^ BDUK (www.gov.uk)
  5. ^ Ofcom’s (www.ofcom.org.uk)
  6. ^ Connected Nations Report 2016 (www.ofcom.org.uk)

Scotland’s Slow Broadband Speeds Harming Business

The British Infrastructure Group of MPs1 (BIG) which is comprised of 57 MPs (only one of which is Scottish) has launched the Broadband 2.02 study to examine the delivery of broadband speeds throughout the UK. The report aims to present the UK Government, industry regulator Ofcom3 and broadband suppliers with a series of recommendations to improve broadband delivery. But the report is damning of the current state of UK broadband connectivity, claiming that as many as 6.7 million UK customers do not receive the proposed minimum standard speeds of 10 megabits (Mb/s) – called for in the Universal Service Obligation4 (USO). The report also calls for increased transparency from the industry, as the 6.7 million figure – reached by Ofcom – does not take into account customers who do not actually receive the broadband speed they pay for and is likely to be significantly higher. Grant Shapps MP, who chairs the BIG, said: “It is unacceptable that businesses and homeowners alike still can’t receive fast Internet, and the lack of minimum standards in the sector represents a worrying picture for post-Brexit Britain’s competitiveness.”

Scotland Worst For Broadband Speeds

Scotland fairs particularly poorly in the report, with four out of the five worst-performing parliamentary constituencies in the north of the country, beaten only by Carmarthen East & Dinefwr in Wales:

  1. Carmarthen East & Dinefwr
  2. Ross, Skye & Lochaber
  3. Na h-Eileanan an Iar
  4. Orkney & Shetland
  5. Argyll & Bute

In Ross, Lochaber and the Isle of Skye only 65.5 % of connections reach the minimum standard specified by USO.

A spokesperson5 for the Scottish Government contested that the Digital Scotland Broadband6 programme, which commits to delivering fibre broadband to at least 95% of residences in Scotland by the end of 2017, is on track. They also noted that the Scottish Government is committed to delivering superfast broadband to all Scottish homes by 2021. The spokesperson told the BBC: “This is the most ambitious commitment in the UK – focusing on delivery of speeds over 30 Mb/s – whilst there is still no clarity from the UK government on how they intend to implement the proposed USO for broadband – which will deliver just 10 Mb/s.”

BT Universal Broadband Commitment

The issue has become more complex with a recent offer from BT7 to invest up to ?600 million in providing speeds of up to 10 Mb/s to 99% of UK residences by 2022. According to BT, this would be through a combination of technologies including fibre and fixed wireless, with less than 1% of customers receiving wireless via satellite, rather than built infrastructure.

However, Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said that the 10Mb/s target was low and warned that customers must not be forced to pay more: “Families and businesses in areas without the minimum speed may see some hope in this announcement, but they will be rightly wary that they will be forced to pay the price in extra or hidden charges. That would not be acceptable and the government must take that into account.

“Businesses will also be concerned that the 10 Mbp/s minimum broadband speed will be outdated and inadequate before it is even fully delivered. Rather than choose an ambitious broadband speed the government went with the cheapest, which will leave us running to catch up with digital developments for years to come.”

DIGIT reached out to BT for clarification on the matter. According to a spokesperson from BT, their offer – titled the Universal Broadband Commitment (UBC) – will still attempt full-coverage of the UK at the previously proposed rate of 10 Mb/s, but will cut the legislative red-tape by circumventing public subsidies and rolling out through the business itself. If its offer is accepted, BT will communicate with Ofcom on how the costs will be recouped, likely through its products on the wholesale market. The spokesperson told DIGIT: “The universal service offer from BT is designed to help deliver the government’s objective to ensure that everyone in the UK is able to access a good broadband service of at least 10 Mb/s.

Many councils, local authorities and devolved governments are of course keen to ensure that as many of their citizens can access at least a superfast service and thus ensure all the economic benefits that research shows flows from such services are available across their regions as soon as possible. BT’s offer is not a substitute for these superfast economic benefit ambitions.”

Impact On Businesses In Scotland

Both offers are now under consideration. Stuart Mackinnon8, External Affairs Manager of the Federation of Small Businesses9 in Scotland welcomed any proposals that might improve Scotland’s digital infrastructure. He said: “We polled our members immediately after last year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections and asked them what their priorities would be for the for the next Scottish Government. ‘Improving Scotland’s digital infrastructure’ was the second-top priority for Scottish small businesses. I don’t think that’s changed. I think while there’s no doubt that the picture, generally, is that infrastructure is improving in Scotland, but is it improving fast enough to match both businesses and consumers expectations, and are we keeping up with our neighbours?”

The lack of broadband infrastructure in Scotland remains a serious problem for some FSB members according to Stuart: “One of our members in the rural north in Sutherland – a hotelier – has a satellite broadband connection. They are paying quite a lot but they regularly exhaust their data. Customers come in with their kids, and there’s no mobile coverage, so they all connect up to the wifi, update their devices, and then watch movies or stream music. If they use up all the bandwidth, that hotelier can’t conduct other business transactions over the course of the day. People’s expectations are shifting so quickly that it is difficult for the telecom companies to keep up.”

Stuart recommended businesses keep up to date with their local capabilities: “Sometimes the nearest green box is upgraded and some businesses don’t know they can access superfast broadband. But there’s various online checkers which you can use to see if your network’s been upgraded.

I think there also good advice10 by Digital Scotland and others about what you can do to boost your speed without necessarily upgrading, like managing what devices you want on your network.

“For small businesses: if you’re frustrated, we have asked the Scottish Government to provide premise by premise details for the next broadband programme. What we want is accurate information for firms to be able to make business decisions, because we know that for a share of our members this is an important issue – if it’s going to be 2021 instead of 2018/2019 then they might adjust their outlook.

Mobile Coverage Overlooked

Stuart also stressed mobile signal coverage remains a major issue for many businesses. An issue he says is often sidelined in favour of broadband.

He said: “An enormous bugbear for our members generally is mobile coverage. Mobile operators highlight that good progress is going to be made with the wider rollout of 4G, but I think that many of our members are deeply frustrated by Scotland’s current mobile coverage levels. We’re frustrated by the lack of detail regarding when individual premises will get broadband, but even more frustrated about the lack of detail about when individual parts of the country might be able to order a taxi on their mobile.

“We’re spending a vast amount of money ‘dualling’ the A9, but to complement that investment it will be vital for visitors to the country to be able to look up on their phones to decide where they’re going to go for a spot of lunch or where to stay overnight.

I think that fixing Scotland’s poor mobile coverage is a real top priority for Scotland’s small firms.”

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  1. ^ British Infrastructure Group of MPs (www.britishinfrastructuregroup.uk)
  2. ^ Broadband 2.0 (www.britishinfrastructuregroup.uk)
  3. ^ Ofcom (www.ofcom.org.uk)
  4. ^ Universal Service Obligation (www.gov.uk)
  5. ^ spokesperson (www.bbc.co.uk)
  6. ^ Digital Scotland Broadband (www.scotlandsuperfast.com)
  7. ^ recent offer from BT (www.bbc.co.uk)
  8. ^ Stuart Mackinnon (uk.linkedin.com)
  9. ^ Federation of Small Businesses (www.fsb.org.uk)
  10. ^ advice (www.scotlandsuperfast.com)

BT to bring 10Mbps broadband to 99% of the UK by 2020 – Which …

In response to a proposed Government regulation, BT has offered to invest ?600m to bring 10Mpbs broadband to 99% of UK households by 2020 and provide full coverage by 2022.

Internet regulatory body Ofcom estimates that 1.4 million households do not get at least 10Mbps internet speed, though some MPs think the number is closer to 5.3 million. If the government accepts BT’s offer, then its own universal services obligation would be shelved. The proposed plan, which was due to be rolled out in 2020, would give anyone in the UK the right to demand a 10Mbps broadband connection regardless of where they live. BT intends to proactively connect remote homes rather than wait for the request.

Broadband speed test1 – find out if you’re getting the speeds offered by your provider

A good move for consumers?

Although the government has yet to accept the offer, it was well received, with Culture Secretary Karen Bradley saying: ‘We warmly welcome BT’s offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses.

‘Whichever of the two approaches we go with in the end, the driving force behind our decision-making will be making sure we get the best deal for consumers.’

If the government decides that BT’s offer is a better solution than the proposed universal services obligation then it would be legally binding. BT subsidiary Openreach would be responsible for carrying out the work and BT would recoup the costs through customer bills.

Labour’s shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson had reservations about BT’s plan. He warned: ‘Businesses will be concerned that the 10Mbps minimum broadband speed will be outdated and inadequate before it is even fully delivered. Rather than choose an ambitious broadband speed the government went with the cheapest, which will leave us running to catch up with digital developments for years to come.’

As streaming and downloading increases demand for faster speeds, it is possible that 10Mbps will not be quick enough by the time every household gets that speed by 2022. Netflix already recommends a minimum speed of 25Mbps to stream 4K content and the rapid increase of internet-connected devices in the home will further increase the strain. BT’s proposal is meeting the minimum requirements rather than looking ahead to what those requirements might be in three and five years time.

Is 10Mbps enough for you? Use our broadband speed advice guide2 to see what speed you need.

BT To Bring 10Mbps Broadband To 99% Of The UK By 2020 – Which ...

Slow speeds are holding the UK back

A recent report from the London Assembly highlighted how poor the UK’s internet is versus other European countries. The report found that only 3% percent of the UK is connected to the internet via fibre optic cables. Fibre cabling is significantly faster than copper cabling, but only 3% of the UK is connected, while 83% of Spanish buildings are connected to fibre.

Despite being the capital, London ranked 30th for high-speed broadband coverage out of 63 UK cities and ranked in the bottom five for 4G coverage. Though London’s coverage is poor it wasn’t one of the regions with the slowest average speeds. The British Infrastructure Group of MPs found that Ross, Skye and Lochaber in Scotland have the worst broadband.

65.6% of connections are slower than the government’s minimum speed of 10Mbps. Carmarthen East and Dinefwr were the slowest regions in Wales where 58.2% of connections are slower than 10Mpbs. Kingston upon Hull East, Yorkshire and the Humber were the slowest regions in England – 56.8% don’t reach 10Mbps.

Which? is campaigning to fix bad broadband

Our own research3 into internet speeds across the UK also found that Scottish regions were suffering the slowest speeds, with the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and the Highlands getting the slowest average download speeds.

Our research has found that thousands of customers aren’t getting the speeds promised by their provider and we’re campaigning for everyone to get the broadband speeds they pay for. You can find out more about what we’re doing to draw attention to this problem on our Fix Bad Broadband campaign page4 and use our speed checker to help us get a better picture of the state of broadband in the UK.

BT To Bring 10Mbps Broadband To 99% Of The UK By 2020 – Which ...

Can you improve your connection?

If you don’t fancy waiting until 2022 to get 10Mbps broadband then you could do what Powys resident Professor Christopher Spry did. Tired of his rubbish 500kbps download speed, he took matters into his own hands and started getting his internet from a satellite 22,000 miles away over the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He pays ?420 a year for the service and now gets 28Mbps download speeds, which isn’t far off the 30.4Mbps average speed for Tamworth, which our research found to have the fastest speeds in the UK.

Read our satellite broadband guide5 to see if the service could be right for you.


  1. ^ Broadband speed test (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ broadband speed advice guide (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Our own research (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Fix Bad Broadband campaign page (campaigns.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ satellite broadband guide (www.which.co.uk)