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24 April 2014

(S4O-03140) Alternatives to Superfast Broadband

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what alternative services are available for premises not covered by the superfast broadband programme. (S4O-03140)

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities (Nicola Sturgeon): The digital Scotland superfast broadband programme, underpinned by £410 million of public and private sector investment, will extend access to superfast broadband infrastructure to 85 per cent of premises by 2015-16 and more than 95 per cent by 2017-18. In parallel, we have established community broadband Scotland, a £5 million initiative that is supporting the development of community-led schemes in those areas least likely to have a superfast service delivered by the main programme. More generally, ADSL and satellite broadband services are currently available to almost all premises in Scotland.

Stewart Stevenson: Would independence provide the opportunity to impose a universal service obligation for broadband that would leave no areas of the country uncovered? I have a personal interest, as I am currently living in one of the remaining 5 per cent of premises.

Nicola Sturgeon: This is an important point, and Labour members might be well advised to listen to the answer. Stewart Stevenson is right to say that independence, in providing the opportunity to align policy, taxation funding and regulation, could help to deliver a more coherent overall approach to ensuring access to broadband right across the country. An extended universal service obligation for broadband could certainly play a part in that.

As Stewart Stevenson will be aware, current European Union rules require member states to set a minimum USO to all end users at an affordable price. In Scotland, if we become independent, that will operate at least at the same level as the rest of the United Kingdom, but independence offers the opportunity for us to go beyond that target.

Stewart Stevenson
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