Although broadband connections are improving in Scotland, rural areas are still being underserved.
The availability of affordable high-speed broadband in Scotland has become widespread in recent years, much as it has across the rest of the UK. However, with around 97% of Scotland's population connected, it was discovered that there was a problem regarding the reach of broadband in Scotland.
Scotland's broadband reach problem means that for the 3% of people without a broadband connection, there is difficulty accessing the internet due to the distance between their homes and the nearest broadband-enabled telephone exchange.
Until recently, it seemed this remaining 3% of the Scottish population had no realistic chance of connecting to broadband in the foreseeable future, but a government initiative has changed that dim outlook and the future of broadband in Scotland suddenly looks brighter.
What is the Scottish broadband reach problem?
A reach problem or reach issue occurs when a house, office or business premises is situated too far away from the nearest broadband or ADSL-enabled telephone exchange. Over long distances, the telephone signal degrades so much that it reaches a level where it can't provide a broadband service.
Want to know more about ADSL? Check out our quick guide to ADSL broadband: What is ADSL broadband?
The length of the line is the major factor in this problem. Numerous hills or valleys, or even the presence of water, can increase the distance the cable has to cover, and as such, lead to lack of broadband connection.
How far away is too far?
There is no hard and fast rule. It's estimated that a 5km radius (around 8km of line length) from the broadband-enabled telephone exchange could be enough to mean that your house or business can't receive broadband.
Solving the reach problem for broadband in Scotland
The Scottish Government started an initiative called the Digital Scotland Programme. A part of this initiative includes the rollout of superfast fibre-optic broadband to 95% of the population.
Bringing broadband to everyone
In October 2007, the Scottish Government asked any homes and business unable to get broadband in Scotland to register with them. The government began to compile a list of all the Scottish broadband black spots so that it could start addressing the problems of reach and make broadband in Scotland available to everyone.
By June 2008, the Scottish government signed a £3.3 million contract to deliver an affordable broadband service to all the households and businesses that had registered to say they could not get broadband services in Scotland.
A company called Avanti Communications won the contract to help people who are currently without any broadband access in Scotland get affordable broadband connections. The programme was a success and saw a huge uptick in the number of broadband users in rural areas.
Delivering broadband to remote areas
Avanti supplied some of the most remote areas of Scotland with broadband services using one of two methods:
- Two-way satellite broadband access
- Wi-Fi broadband access
Almost 4,000 households and business in Scotland spread across a range of rural areas were included in the contract to make broadband more available in the country.
After the success of getting basic broadband access to more rural areas of Scotland, the Scottish Government took the next step of ensuring that 95% of the country will have access to super-fast fibre-optic broadband by 2018.
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme was contracted between the Scottish Government and BT in 2013. Despite the massive investment in the programme, around 5% of Scotland still won't have access to fibre broadband.
The remaining 5%
The final 5% of consumers without fibre broadband access haven't been forgotten, however. The Scottish Government has allocated additional funds to helping these residents obtain some form of broadband access through community initiatives.
For more information on the Community Broadband Scotland Initiative, visit their official website here: Community Broadband Scotland.