Scottish investment in fibre broadband to deliver £2 billion in benefits

18 December 2019 3 min. read

Every public pound invested in fibre broadband in Scotland is delivering almost £121 in benefits to the Scottish economy, according to new research. Analysys Mason estimates the total benefit of Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband’s £442 million investment will be more than £2 billion over 15 years. 

The state of the UK’s internet connectivity has been a source of major debate over recent months. While advances in broadband technology have the potential to yield super-fast connections to the citizens and businesses of Britain, the laissez-faire approach of the UK Government to the market has left private providers chasing short-term profitability and under-investing in the nation’s digital infrastructure, leaving much of it frustratingly slow.

This is not the case in Scotland, however. The devolved Scottish Government has committed some £442 million of public money to the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) initiative since 2014, something which has led to around 930,000 homes and businesses across Scotland now being able to connect to fibre broadband. Over the course of the programme, 4,500 new fibre street cabinets have been deployed alongside more than 11,000 kilometres of cable, including subsea cable for 20 crossings to Scottish islands. 

Scottish investment in fibre broadband to deliver £2 billion in benefits

Now, research commissioned by DSSB – undertaken by telecom, media and technology specialist consultancy Analysys Mason – has estimated the investment will bring in a benefit of £2.76 billion over 15 years. This includes £845 million in direct benefit, as well as £907 million in business benefit – enabling firms to connect rapidly with global markets while adapting to key trends – and £830 million in consumer benefits, with smart-homes subsequently allowing citizens to reduce their heating bills, among other benefits. 

Matt Yardley, one of the report authors, said, "We believe the DSSB Programme has delivered a range of quantifiable benefits to businesses, consumers and government across Scotland. In addition, we expect the Programme will help unlock other longer-term benefits such as those relating to social inclusion and social cohesion, education and the environment." 

James F Stephen Architects in Glamis is one example of a rural business which is benefitting from fibre broadband deployed by the DSSB programme. The latest data from regulator Ofcom notes that broadband speeds remain slower in rural areas across Britain than urban ones, with 53% of rural residents having average connections below 10Mbps, compared to 16% in urban areas. However, due to the DSSB project, Glamis – a small village in Angus, Scotland, located four miles south of Kirriemuir and five miles southwest of Forfar – now boasts broadband speeds of over 70Mbps.

Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, commented, "James F Stephen Architects is a perfect example of a small, rural, business that is thriving thanks to fibre broadband. Thanks to the programme, and combined with commercial coverage, the programme met its target to deliver fibre broadband access to 95% of Scotland premises by December 2017. Deployment has continued since, with around 930,000 premises now capable of accessing fibre broadband. The report reaffirmed that the average broadband speed has tripled between 2014 and 2017."