Scottish National Investment Bank pledges £20m to Lothian Broadband Group

LOTHIAN Broadband Group plans to more than double its workforce and expand into rural communities and small towns across Scotland, following a major funding deal with the Scottish National Investment Bank.

The taxpayer-backed SNIB has committed £20million in funding to the Lothian Broadband Group, saying the money will “help tackle digital inequality in rural communities and small towns”. It is understood that this injection is a mixture of equity and loan financing, with SNIB taking a minority stake in the broadband fiber sector.

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Lothian Broadband Group chairman Kevin Hague said the company’s expansion ambitions spanned the whole of Scotland as he outlined plans to increase the workforce from around 25 to more than 60 d by the end of 2022. He noted that the company currently operates in East Lothian and the Highlands.

Mr Hague, who is among the private investors with a stake in the broadband company, said: ‘There is a big expansion going on.

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SNIB noted that its ‘fundamental’ funding commitment comes on top of £5m of new investment from the company’s current shareholders and is ‘part of Lothian Broadband Group’s plans to invest £75m to connect over 70,000 new premises in rural communities and small towns across Scotland over the next four years”.

The Managing Director of Lothian Broadband Group is Gavin Rodgers. SNIB noted that Mr Rodgers was “former head of a national fiber delivery organization at Virgin Media and had a proven track record of deploying fiber at scale”.

SNIB said: “LBG is already investing to provide full fiber broadband in East Lothian. Today’s announcement signals an expansion of LBG’s geographic ambitions, with funding now secured to drive operational scale and rapidly accelerate fiber deployment in 2022.

“Digital inequalities have increased during the pandemic, and the Bank will support a strong and experienced management team to roll out a scalable broadband network to tens of thousands of households and businesses that would otherwise wait years to receive a gigabit-capable broadband service.

Eilidh Mactaggart, Managing Director of SNIB, said: “The Bank’s investment provides the seed funding needed for LBG to rapidly accelerate its operational scale-up and fiber rollout in 2022.”

She added: “This investment will support improved digital connectivity in rural and semi-rural areas of Scotland, helping to tackle inequalities in access to digital infrastructure outside our towns and cities.”

The SNIB recalled that one of its “three key missions” is “to extend equal opportunities by improving places”.

He said funding from Lothian Broadband Group would “help increase digital connectivity for underserved communities”.

SNIB added: “A vibrant rural digital economy can also help reduce car journeys and contribute to a just transition to net zero by 2045.”

Mr Rodgers said: “The support of the Scottish National Investment Bank enables us to continue our rapid expansion as we establish the leading platform for fiber to the premises deployment for rural communities and small towns. from Scotland.

“This new investment supports LBG’s commitment to building quality digital infrastructure and our inclusive, community-based approach to every village and town we serve.”

SNIB said the funding “supports the UK and Scottish governments’ commitments to high-speed broadband access”.

He added: “The UK government is aiming for at least 85% of the population to have access to gigabit (1000Mbps) broadband by 2025 as part of its national infrastructure strategy.”