Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?

They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM

Scottish TV for Scottish people

A digital multiplex can carry a dozen channels, or half a dozen high-definition streams, but now the SDN has morphed into the Scottish Broadcasting Service with even greater aspirations made possible by independence:

“A Scottish Broadcasting Service founded on the staff and assets of BBC Scotland [will] include an additional English language radio and television station for Scotland – more than meeting the Scottish Broadcasting Commission’s recommendation for a Scottish Digital Network" a government spokesman told us, explaining that "the UK Government would not agree to the Commission’s proposals for a Scottish Digital Network. Only with the full powers of independence can the Scottish Government pursue its vision for a thriving broadcasting sector.”

The website goes into more detail: "The existing BBC charter expires on 31 December 2016 ... the SBS will begin broadcasting on TV, radio and online on 1 January 2017", but that's not all: "The SBS would also inherit a proportionate share of the BBC’s commercial ventures, including BBC Worldwide Ltd, and their associated ongoing profits."

And it might need the money. What Scotland won't have is any more bonanzas in sellable radio spectrum. The really valuable bands have all gone, and Ofcom (whose remit, lest we forget, is efficient use of radio spectrum) has been looking decidedly socialist lately. The regulator has had something of an epiphany, accepting that selling to the highest bidder isn't always the best way, and has been busy promoting unlicensed, and light-licensed, bands.

The next band coming up in the UK is White Space – TV bands which aren't being used locally, so can be exploited with the use of an online database. America already permits such use licence-free, and the UK should join them by the end of 2014. So Scotland could be part of that movement unless a vote for independence slows the whole process, and assuming the SDN doesn’t fill the White Spaces with courses in Gaelic.

When it comes to the rest of Ofcom's role we really don't know what a Scottish version will do. Scotland is the most Christian part of the UK: the last census saw half the population declaring themselves to worship Christ in one form of another, so will the prudish nature of popular religion change what we see in our TVs?

Ofcom measures broadband speeds, and insists that ISPs advertise by average. Do that in Scotland and the speeds will nosedive as the rural lack of unbundling, and distant exchanges, drag down the Edinburgh numbers.

Ofcom regulates the privately owned postal service, but once that's been bought back into public ownership such a regulator might not be necessary.

Ofcom also licenses tens of thousands of microwave links, like my own which continues to provide internet connectivity via the ever-tolerant Claire and her proximity to the local exchange. My licence runs out at the end of September, and I'll need to renew one last time before Edinburgh takes over.

Beyond then, I've no idea what I'll be asked to pay, or to whom I'll be paying it, or whether the Universal Service Obligation will finally see BT digging up my aluminium line and replacing it with copper, or perhaps even glass. Promise me that and I'll be donning the tartan and strapping on my sgian-dubh before you can say "better together". ®

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