EU state aid approval for new investment in broadband internet has been welcomed as ‘an important step towards improved services’ by Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

It was confirmed earlier this week that UK government plans to invest in Scotland and increase access to high speed broadband had been approved by the European Commission.

Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

‘People in the Northern Isles have been at the back of the queue for many years when it comes to digital services. Mobile phone and internet connections that people in other parts of the country now take for granted are simply not available in many parts of the Highlands and Islands.

‘We have seen the difficulties that EU state aid rules can cause for government projects on a number of occasions in the past. As with the fuel duty derogation, it is important that Ministers follow all the right procedures and are working to get projects off the ground as soon as possible.

‘EU approval was a vital stepping stone towards getting the Highlands and Islands pilot project underway. This is good news for the Northern Isles and an important step towards boosting internet services across the North of Scotland. The money that the UK government are putting into services in the Highlands and Islands will help drive investment from elsewhere. State aid approval is an important step towards improved services for people across the North of Scotland.’

Notes to editors:

1.            The Coalition Government’s broadband plans are hugely ambitious: the aim is to connect 90 per cent of homes to superfast broadband and ensuring the rest have access to at least 2Mbps.

2.            This support for the rollout of superfast broadband has now been approved by the European Commission, who has to approve any “state aid”. State aid refers to forms of assistance which have the potential to distort competition and/or affect trade between member states of the EU.

The European Commission monitors and controls State Aid in the EU.  Member States are obliged to notify and seek approval from the Commission before granting State Aid. This gives the Commission the opportunity to approve or refuse to approve the proposed measure.

3.            The European Commission’s green light means that local authorities can now sign procurement contracts with contractors and begin delivery work on their new broadband infrastructure projects. 

4.            The Department for Culture, Media and Sport defines ‘superfast broadband’ as broadband with potential headline download access speeds greater than 24 Mbps.

5.            The market will provide superfast broadband to around two thirds of the country but it is essential the whole country shares in the benefits of high-speed internet access. That is why the Coalition Government is providing additional funding to make it economically viable for telecoms companies to roll-out broadband to the whole of the UK.