The digital Scotland superfast broadband programme will extend fibre broadband access to at least 95 per cent of premises in Scotland by the end of 2017.
As outlined in the programme for government, this Government has put digital connectivity at the heart of its agenda and it is committed to delivering 100 per cent superfast broadband access by the end of this session of Parliament.
Thank you for that response. We can measure the importance of broadband by the number of questions lodged about it.
Given the engineering complexities of deploying fibre broadband cabinets, which do not allow digital Scotland to give any specific details regarding roll-out times, and given that many of my constituents in the very heart of Edinburgh still do not have access to fibre optic broadband, what is being done to ensure that the March 2018 deadline for roll-out will be met?
There are two answers to the question. First, in two contracts throughout Scotland, we are delivering an investment by the Scottish Government of £400 million, with support from the United Kingdom Government and others. That programme has been praised by Ofcom. It has been acknowledged as being effective by not only Audit Scotland but the UK Government.
Secondly, as I said in answer to the first question, we will roll out access through a procurement process that will be entered into next year. It is important that we do not rush it. The UK Government was thought to have rushed its so-called mobile infrastructure plan. The result was that only three masts were erected instead of 78. That was because the preparatory work to ascertain the existing level of cover was not done. In other words, we cannot proceed with the roll-out of the contract for the remainder until we are absolutely sure what the specification is for those who already have it.
I am sorry for the length of the answer, Presiding Officer, but it is important that I answer the member’s question fully.
That preparatory work is essential but we are adhering to our timetables and I am very pleased that our progress has been recognised by the regulator, Audit Scotland, and the UK Government.
I have a short question. Although fibre optic broadband is important in rolling out high-speed broadband across Scotland, there are some areas where it will not be appropriate or that it will not be able to reach. Aside from fibre optic broadband, which methods—that will be cost-neutral to the end user—is the cabinet secretary considering for those hard-to-reach areas, many of which are in his constituency and my region?
As I have indicated to the chamber before, the process of tendering next year acknowledges that one size does not necessarily fit all and that we will therefore need to be flexible enough to enable a variety of techniques to be adopted. The member makes a perfectly reasonable point and it is one that we are already pursuing.