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Scottish minister calls for broadband obligation

16/03/15

The Scottish Government is pressing Whitehall for a universal service obligation for high speed broadband

Scotland's deputy first minister has called on the UK government to implement a universal service obligation (USO) for broadband services.

Scottish hill in mistJohn Swinney has written to Ed Vaizey, UK minister for the digital economy, asking for the move to ensure everybody in Scotland has access to affordable high speed broadband.

USOs are managed by communications regulator Ofcom and are designed to ensure a basic level of service for everybody. The UK currently has a telecoms USO, but the Scottish Government said this does not contain any meaningful provision for broadband.

Swinney said: "The Scottish Government has set an ambitious digital policy agenda aimed at ensuring that all of Scotland can access world class digital connectivity by 2020 and we are taking forward a range of activity and investment to deliver this.

"Broadband is something that everyone in Scotland should have access to - it's a vital service in today's world. That is why I am pressing the UK Government to introduce a broadband USO, which would set out access as an entitlement.

"The introduction of a USO for broadband with an appropriate speed requirement, as introduced by Finland, Malta and Spain in recent years, would be a way of ensuring that no-one is excluded from the benefits of this integral technology."

Investments

The Scottish Government is investing in broadband provision through the £410 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, and has made £7.5 million available to community-led plans for provision under Community Broadband Scotland.

BT has the contracts for broadband provision in rural areas throughout the UK, but there have been complaints that it will fall short of 100% coverage. It was recently accused in a House of Commons debate of not fully investing in the programme in areas where the costs would be particularly high.

Image by Rosendahl, public domain through Wikimedia.

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