Scotland to evaluate R100 fibre broadband project 


The project has been subject to many delays, with the target date being pushed back seven years 

The Scottish government has issued a new contract notice to begin an evaluation study to assess the value for money of the country’s R100 (Reaching 100% superfast broadband”) project. 

The R100 scheme aims to improve the connectivity of some of Scotland’s most rural communities, many of which have been overlooked by previous public and private broadband investment schemes. At the outset of the project, R100 was aiming to improve the connectivity of around 180,000 premises that had been identified as having broadband slower than 30Mbps.  

The project is backed by roughly £600 million from the Scottish government, with a further £49.5 million from the UK government’s Project Gigabit and £54.1 million in private investment from BT. 

Progress towards this goal, however, has been slow. To date, the project has only provided 42,000 premises with fibre-to-the-premise technology and aims for another 114,000 premises by 2028.  

As a result, the Scottish government wants to know whether it is getting its money’s worth from the project. According to the notice details, the study will evaluate the “Value for Money of this programme in terms of understanding the social, economic, environmental and other benefits to households, businesses and communities of improvements in broadband connectivity and speed.”  

Unfortunately, the project has been subject to multiple delays, partly due to bidding disputes between BT and Gigaclear. This week, MSP Douglas Lumsden voiced his concerns on the project in parliament, describing it as an “abject failure” because the original 114,000 target, which was originally set at 2021, has now been pushed back to 2028. Only 29% of the targeted premises have so far been reached, a figure that falls as low as 15% in the North Scotland and the Highlands segment of the project. 

“The figures for the number of connected properties from R100 are shambolic and his [Humza Yusuf] delusional response will be a slap in the face to the rural communities who are depending on faster broadband,” continued Lumsden in the Scottish Parliament, adding that First Minister Humza Yousaf is “in complete denial if he believes the R100 scheme has been a success”. 

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