Scottish MP criticises Scottish Parliament over delays to awarding R100 contracts
John Lamont, the Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk has written a letter to the Scottish First Minister to try and ascertain how many bids are involved in the R100 broadband project and when might all of the contracts be awarded.
The answer is pretty short and it is that there are three credible bids in play at this time and awarding of the contract is expected in 2019.
Originally the contracts were promised in 2018 and the deadline for the completion of the project is the end of 2021, so taking the most generous end of the financial year the deadline is just 24 months away and if our figure of 177,208 premises not having access to a 30 Mbps service currently via fixed line broadband is correct those getting awarded a contract (or maybe multiple contracts) have a lot of planning and then implementation to complete in a relatively short space of time.
Scotland under the current BDUK contracts which is still delivering connectivity in the form of additional VDSL2 cabinets and increasingly FTTP is split into two with the Highlands and Islands region covering 9.3% of premises spread over a large area and while fibre (i.e. VDSL2 at any speed from zero upwards) covers 91.7% of premises once you factor in the distance versus speed drop off to meet a 30 Mbps minimum coverage is down at 79.1%. The Scottish Borders have a similar distance drop off, i.e. dropping from 94.6% to 84.4% once the 30 Mbps filter is applied, though the Borders does have an increasing amount of full fibre at 2.1%, three times the availability for the Highlands and Islands.
We suspect that a similar pattern to what has happened in Wales may emerge in that bids may not take on the full complement of areas that need work at this time but prefer to concentrate on areas where they know they can deliver within a set timescale and subsequent to this rely on small contracts or extensions to continue work. It is also very possible that if too much pressure is put on bidders that just as was the case with the first phase of BDUK contracts that some bidding will drop out of the process leaving just one supplier - most likely BT Group.