The COSLA* Excellence Awards highlight creative projects that set new standards of excellence and have a positive impact on communities across Scotland.
I was delighted to attend the awards ceremony and talk about how good connectivity is transformational and how our networks help to underpin the amazing things projects around the country are striving to achieve. I also reaffirmed our ambition to get decent broadband to all.
More than 95 per cent of our households and businesses can now get connected to fibre, with the vast majority able to order a superfast connection today. I am really proud of Openreach’s leading role in this.
We connect homes, schools, shops, banks and businesses of every size – in every corner of Scotland. And, through our ongoing desire to address the final 5 per cent, and our new Fibre First programme, we’re now taking Scotland towards a full fibre broadband future.
We’ve already built faster, fibre-enabled broadband services to more than 2.5 million premises, many in rural areas.
This has been achieved in part through the Digital Scotland partnership with the public sector, which set out to build on the commercial investments made by the private sector, and has so far reached 900,000 premises – from North Roe in Shetland to Gretna in the south.
Last month’s progress report from Audit Scotland recognised this success, noting that we hit targets on time, under budget and delivered faster speeds to more premises than planned.
We’re investing an extra £20 million in the Digital Scotland rollout so we can go further together, taking our public sector contribution to £146 million on top of the hundreds of millions of pounds we’ve invested already commercially.
We’re also investing in Scotland’s people and their future.
Today we employ more than 3,100 people in every local authority area in Scotland, and we’re investing £450,000 in our training schools in Livingston and Dundee.
We’re hiring 400 new trainee engineers this year – many in rural locations – to boost customer service and deliver our ultrafast fibre to the premises ambitions.
We know there’s lots more to do to make sure the nation’s most hard-to-reach places get the connectivity they need.
Scotland’s terrain poses unique challenges, and population dispersal makes the task of getting fibre to all of them even trickier.
We fully support the Scottish Government’s ambition to deliver 100 per cent coverage at 30Mbps through its Reaching 100 programme.
We continue to promote our Fibre Community Partnership scheme, which helps communities not in current commercial or Digital Scotland plans.
Our unique full-fibre partnership in Ross-shire is revolutionising life for the small communities scattered across 26 miles of Highland glens, from Achnasheen to Aultguish.
Full fibre broadband is now our focus, and our ambition is unrivalled in the UK.
We want to be the nation’s full fibre network provider and we believe we have the people, knowhow and capability to build a platform that will drive Scotland’s digital economy for the next 100 years, all necessary for the smart cities, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence of the future.
That’s why we’ve kicked off our Fibre First programme. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in Edinburgh will be among the first to benefit. Our multimillion pound investment in the city’s digital infrastructure will enable speeds of up to one gigabit per second.
In this short video, some of our Edinburgh partners explain why fibre is vital to our connected future.
This is just the start. By the end of 2020, we’ll have built full fibre broadband to three million front doors. By the mid-2020s we want that to be 10 million, and ultimately our ambition is to reach the majority of the UK.
But we can’t do all this alone. We’ll face a lot of challenges which may require a closer look at policy or commercial enablers and we need to work collectively with our Scottish partners to solve these.
By Robert Thorburn, partnership director
*Originally the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, COSLA is the voice of local government in Scotland.