Connectivity

The aim is for Scotland to have the physical infrastructure to enable everyone to get connected.

What are the key actions that you think should now be taken forward, and by whom, to achieve this ambition?

Why the contribution is important

High speed digital connectivity, both broadband and mobile, is a key enabler to the future growth of Scotland’s economy.  It will improve the productivity of businesses across all of Scotland, particularly in remote and rural areas, transforming the prospects of those who live there.

by ScottishGovernment on November 03, 2016 at 12:06PM

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Comments

  • Posted by rgsom November 04, 2016 at 08:54

    We are now at a point in the evolution of digital connectivity in Scotland that we need to consider two elements: regulation and diversification of solution.

    In terms of regulation, Scotland needs to assert its own authority over connectivity, and should seek to get devolved powers so that it can establish its own approach to the infrastructure. The model for the National Grid or National Gas Network needs to replicated for connectivity if competition is to be focused at the right part of the system and ubiquitous delivery is to be achieved.

    In terms of solution, to get Scotland totally connected a different approach needs to be adopted that focuses on the connection problem that a person, business or community has, rather than the postcode they live in. Standardising, simplifying and sharing approaches based on factors of constraint would allow for faster achievement of the Government's aspirations and tagets for 100% coverage.
  • Posted by tambo November 09, 2016 at 13:17

    I would like to see how we propose to make any infrastructure put in place easily and readily available. How often do we go to a meeting or event in a public sector workplace to find there is no guest WiFi. How often do public sector organisations block things that could help with education, improvements etc (YouTube is a great example - blocked by many organisations despite it being one of the best free providers of educational material for everyone). If its safe and OK to use by say one NHS Board- shouldn't that be the case for everyone? So it would be great to see alongside the digital context of the strategy - how we propose to support the use of any technologies by making them easily and readily available to all . This comment probably applies to many of the topics - but i think connectivity, and open wifi access protocols really need to be agreed and applied at a Scotland level.
  • Posted by clarecam November 11, 2016 at 12:11

    We need fast FREE broadband. Other countries can do it, so should we. Or at least fixed prices for broadband providers, and to end the shocking rates for PAYG which affect the poorest in our society. How can we have digital literacy when people are paying £5 for 100mb or so? (most people reading this have probably never been in top-up hell)
    I work in public sector/education and we can never download updates, or access social media or Youtube. Too many blocks and system passwords required..we need to move with the times!
  • Posted by craigstep November 15, 2016 at 09:44

    To truly reach everyone is not just a case of expanding infrastructure. Many people live in areas which are exceptionally well served with fibre from Virgin Media and Openreach and with excellent 4G availability from all of the operators and yet, despite this wealth of connectivity, are still not online.

    There is obviously not just a single reason for this, however, cost and contracts are clearly one of the major factors. As we ask people to transact with government, local authority, and other organisations online, those who cannot afford an internet connection become ever-more the people who should be online.

    The provision of a free basic broadband service would improve the lives of thousands of people who do not have the financial capability to get online. Taking the lack of connectivity out of the equation will allow resources to be targeted at the other issues concerning digital participation.
  • Posted by jamesduff December 14, 2016 at 10:21

    Connectivity is crucial to developing our vision for a digital Scotland; however, infrastructure alone will not address the issue of getting people online. Many single people or families are living in poverty and struggle to afford an internet connection, so this also needs addressed.

    It is important that Scottish Government, Telecommunications and other organisations work together to improve the life chances of everyone by providing low cost or free broadband to everyone. Without this the digitally excluded will fall further behind and experience further disadvantage of not being able to access goods and services online.
  • Posted by Gail_CarnegieUK December 14, 2016 at 13:13

    Providing the right infrastructure is a critical first step in enabling all citizens in Scotland to benefit from digital technology. The Carnegie UK Trust have been a partner in the development of Community Broadband Scotland and remain committed to its approach of providing appropriate resource to rural communities to help them develop their own, community-led broadband solutions.
    We are also encouraged by the support being offered to housing associations in Glasgow and Edinburgh to develop affordable broadband services for digitally excluded tenants. Scottish Housing Survey data (2014) indicates that 38% of social housing tenants do not have internet access. Our research into areas of deprivation in Glasgow found that at that time, up to 92% of non-working adults aged 60 or over living in social rented properties in these localities were likely to be offline.
    However, having access at home is only the starting point in enabling digital participation. Our research into best practice digital participation projects from around the UK concludes that each individual who is digitally excluded experiences their own combination of barriers to getting online. Therefore a ‘one size fits all’ approach - and particularly an approach which focuses on infrastructure to the detriment of attitudinal or social factors - is unlikely to be sufficient in moving people who are digitally excluded online.

    Links to the Carnegie UK Trust's research into Digital Exclusion:

    http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/[…]/

    http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/[…]/

    http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/[…]/

    - Gail Irvine, Policy Officer, Carnegie UK Trust
  • Posted by jamiegreeneUK December 14, 2016 at 13:48

    The August 2016 report from Audit Scotland ‘Superfast broadband for Scotland: A progress update’, provided the following conclusion, “Although progress with the contracts is good, many premises across Scotland currently do not get 10 Mb/s. There is still much to be done if the Scottish Government is to achieve its vision of a world-class digital infrastructure” and “There is a continuing need to monitor carefully the progress and cost of further roll-out once it extends into more difficult areas if the 95 per cent coverage by December 2017 target is to be achieved”.

    The Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland to have world-class digital infrastructure by 2020 is an admirable one, but even if the 95% target is reached in 2017 the hardest to reach 5% is taking more time than anticipated. BT has a cap of £1,700 to reach each premise, which is not always enough for the hardest to reach areas. So many remote and rural areas, as well as “not-spots” in towns and cities, are left in the position of having not even basic, let alone, high-speed broadband coverage, as technology moves on.

    Mobile internet is arguably becoming more important than access to high-speed broadband. Smartphones have overtaken most devices as users’ primary point of access to the internet and touch screens also have the advantage of being more intuitive for people learning to use the internet for the first time, such as elderly people.

    The Chancellor recently announced plans for the next generation of mobile data networking with the announcement of 5G trials. This is more significant than when 4G was rolled out. In terms of speed, these networks differ on a different magnitude: 4G peaks around 50 Megabytes per second and averages around 12. Samsung managed to reach 7.5 Gigabytes per second in their testing of the 5G network whilst the University of Sydney managed to obtain 1 Terabyte per second last year. Whilst 5G won’t maintain these speeds at a constant rate the average will rival, or even best, our fibre optic connections.

    The current broadband roll-out is a very positive endeavour, but it has somewhat stagnated, fixed on targets rather than innovation. The current BT contract should perhaps have been split into smaller regional contracts to create more domestic competition and Scottish policy makers should ideally influence any future roll-out contracts, advocating a mix of tech solutions and funding models.

    I have spoken to many stakeholders across multiple technology sectors who have already ruled themselves out of the next tranche of public funding for the last “5%” because they think that the requirements to participate will be onerous in terms of limitations, obligations and require specific funding models in place which aren’t consensual with the technology solution.

    A broad and open mind should be in place when looking at how we reach the last and hardest to reach parts of Scotland. Technologies such as TV whitespace, fixed wireless, satellite, mobile internet (4 & 5G), fibre and copper, might ALL feature in reaching every last premise that requires connection. For that reason, there might be flexibility around the 30 Meg speed target in scenarios where it inhibits a particular solution, which is cost effective and appropriate. Some comment that a fixation on the speed alone not the business model or value for money aspect is clouding the Scottish Government’s ability to look at this with a neutral eye. Something to bear in mind perhaps.

    An interesting example of an alternative model is the RemIX research project led by the University of Edinburgh and funded by Community Broadband Scotland, which “allows small access networks along the west coast of Scotland to access good quality and affordable backhaul to provide broadband services to remote, sparsely populated areas”.

    It is important that the Scottish Government think in terms of “future-proof” legislation and digital infrastructure, so that that Scotland can be agile enough to respond to new advances, such as 5G, in the next 10-15 years. In terms of digital participation, inclusion, skills and entrepreneurship, access to modern digital infrastructure is absolutely vital.

    - Jamie Greene MSP
    Scottish Conservative Spokesman for Technology, Connectivity and the Digital Economy
  • Posted by KBG December 15, 2016 at 15:22

    Providing as future-proof and reliable a solution as possible is important. I think this is still land-based and so extending the fibre-based network as far as possible would be best for the basic infrastructure. All the wireless solutions are constrained by local geography despite being much simpler to deploy. Despite that, I think wireless is part of the overall solution as a combination of all the available technologies (and maybe some we haven't thought of yet) and the proposed planning relaxation in relation to masts and aerials is to be welcomed if we are going to make improvements any time soon.

    This strategy and action plan is from 2012. It needs to be revised to reflect where we stand nearing the end of Programme 1 and especially to review the success, or otherwise, of Programme 3. Regarding Programme 4, the desire to have improved connectivity is present without doubt, but in reality it has not been enabled fully by Programme 1 (being connected to the digital infrastructure, or “properties passed” as the current contract measures success, may mean exactly that – premises are passed by fibre lines but remain unconnected at even a basic speed!

    Programme 3, to introduce innovative and alternative solutions e.g. using CBS has proved very long-winded and in main cases exhausting for the volunteers involved due to the complex bureaucracy that appears to be necessary. The availability of access to, and the cost of, backhaul services to power these alternative solutions also may put them out of reach of all but the most demanding communities.

    Increasing demand was seen as a specific aim, but while the demand is certainly there, the increased cost of an improved service from the ISPs goes against that and in rural areas we are still paying the same as (or more than) urban areas for a much inferior service.

    Choose Digital First does not seem to have had the expected level of exposure though as stated above, demand is not really an issue – it is provision that is the problem.
    We need to have more visibility of the Fibre Landline roll-out (R100) in the same was as proposed for the Mobile Infrastructure Project. This aspect has been one of the biggest criticisms of Programme 1 - no-one will tell you what is happening when. So how can local communities plan their future and attract, or even keep, residents and businesses in their locality.

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