The announcement soon afterwards that the £250 million fund of public-sector money would be supplemented by an extra £32m from the UK Government's Broadband UK (BDUK) fund will have further cheered those who believe in the technology's ability to transform economic opportunity as well as social provision for remote and disadvantaged communities.
NextGen presentations from Swedish, Lithuanian and other nationalities showed an array of countries which by design or accident have enabled widespread and economically transformative use of high speed broadband. Some, like Turkey, Romania and Portugal, are countries that might not have been expected to steal a march on Scotland with our long history as a technological powerhouse. Scotland has geographical disadvantages that are almost as challenging as Sweden's but it now has a plan to provide the whole country with broadband speeds of 40-80Mbps
The Scottish Government plans do not look as ambitious or cutting-edge as they would have done two or three years ago, but they have been well received by independent experts, give or take some dissent about whether it was right to follow the UK Government's streamlined procurement BDUK framework. On balance it seems that following this template makes it more likely that the plan's 2013-15 timescale will be met.
In a field as complex as this, fraught with technological, territorial, commercial and state-aid questions, the risk of getting bogged down makes public-sector leadership all-important. The hard-driving Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Alex Neil, has appointed Colin Cook, formerly head of the Army's online recruitment operations to head the 15-person team overseeing the project. His self-proclaimed passion for the project inspires confidence that Scotland will soon have a network that makes our so-called "peripheral" status a thing of the past.