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Superfast Broadband (Installation Timetable)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th November 2016.

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will publish a timetable for the installation of superfast broadband indicating when the service will be available in each area. (S5O-00304)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Planned deployment information, including expected timescales, for the digital Scotland superfast broadband programme is available on the digital Scotland postcode checker. The DSSB programme will extend fibre broadband access to at least 95 per cent of premises by the end of 2017 and we are committed to extending superfast coverage to 100 per cent of premises across Scotland by 2021. The timetable for delivery will depend on the outcome of new procurements, which will begin next year.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

As much information as possible—and as soon as possible—is the best option for communities and families so that they can get best value for money with the data services that they plan to buy. In the broadband contracts that the Scottish Government is delivering with BT, how is it ensuring that it is also getting value for money?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The member makes a valid point. Communities throughout Scotland are keen to know when they will get access to superfast broadband—that is absolutely understandable and we are not complacent about that. There are five stages to upgrading a green roadside cabinet: design, survey, build, connection and activation. All members will understand that issues can be identified at any one of those stages that can change the expected delivery date, and that should be borne in mind in relation to timescales.

The member asked about value for money, which I assure him is a key consideration. Each quarter, the digital superfast broadband programme assures milestones that are delivered by BT against contractual targets. That assurance feeds into the level of payment that BT receives quarterly so, if it does not deliver, it does not get paid.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I appreciate that there is a difference between making the service available in each area and connecting every household in an area, as the Government has committed to do. Does the minister understand the frustration that is felt by many people who have no idea when they might get connected to superfast broadband, despite announcements having been made perhaps 18 months or two years ago that superfast broadband is now in their area and despite having superfast broadband lines going past their homes?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

If Mr Rumbles had listened to my first answer, in which I indicated that information is available on the digital Scotland postcode checker—[


.] Mr Rumbles is interrupting from a sedentary position.

I absolutely agree and, as I said, I am not complacent about the situation. I understand those perfectly legitimate concerns, which are expressed by a great many people.

However, I am pleased that bodies such as Ofcom have recognised and praised the progress that we are making in Scotland. Ofcom, which is the regulator, has said that our progress on broadband is better than that south of the border. I appreciate that recognition from the regulator, but we are not complacent and we are aware of the concerns.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

What is being done to encourage greater take-up of superfast broadband in areas where it has been delivered, in order to allow more resources to be channelled into communities that currently cannot access superfast broadband?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

A great many people are pretty keen to access broadband where they can. The member makes a reasonable point, which I will reflect on to see whether we can do more. I am pleased that he shares our concern and our commitment to ensuring that there is universal coverage by 2021. I will write to him about whether there are any ways in which we can encourage take-up. It is primarily a matter for each person to decide whether to take up services if they so wish.