The Scottish government has confirmed that there will be a delay in signing of contracts for the £600m Reaching 100% superfast broadband project (R100 superfast broadband project) due to multiple factors.
During a question and answer session in Parliament, Scotland Minister for Connectivity Paul Wheelhouse revealed that the contracts will only be signed by the end of 2019. This indicates that Scotland could miss out on its original target of rolling out the R100 superfast broadband project by 2021, which is intended to achieve broadband speeds of more than 30Mbps for every home and business in the country.
Wheelhouse said: “We are determined that R100 programme delivers the best possible value and benefit for Scotland and have designed a procurement process to achieve this.
“Key to doing so is to ensure a highly competitive process that results in the £600 million funding for this programme delivering on our commitment to provide access to superfast broadband to every home and business in Scotland.”
The Scottish government short-listed four bidders for the R100 superfast broadband project and after an initial round of talks, a six-week extension was given to enable them to prepare initial submissions. However, one of the bidders lodged a complaint with the UK government-managed National Competency Centre that the Code of Conduct was violated by another participating bidder.
Although the issue was satisfactorily resolved, it paused the procurement by six weeks, said Wheelhouse.
The Minister said that prior to the next major milestone of the R100 superfast broadband project, the government had to come up with a revised intervention area, by listing all eligible premises. The update was required to enable the final stages of dialogue to be based on the latest picture having considered commercial coverage plans and changes to the planned deployment of the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB), which aims at extending fibre broadband infrastructure into non-commercial areas.
More premises were added back into the R100 intervention area, partly because of direction from UK Ministers that future Gainshare funding activity be focused on full-fibre solutions. Wheelhouse said that this led to greater than expected changes across Scotland and bidders sought extensions to allow them to stay in the process and provide competitive bids.
The Scottish government, as a result, gave more time for the bidders to remodel their solutions, which has pushed back the appointment of a preferred bidder or bidders to the end of September 2019.