More than 14,000 homes and businesses across Argyll and Bute are now connected into new fibre optic networks which are bringing faster broadband to rural communities.
The connections herald the start of a roll-out across the area which will reach more than 8 out of 10 premises by the end of next year.
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project is investing £410m in extending the coverage of fibre based broadband to places which could not be reached by the market alone.
In Argyll and Bute, commercial services are live in Dunoon and Helensburgh - further roll-out across both towns continues coupled with commercial deployment in Oban commencing from the Autumn.
First services delivered by the DSSB project are in Campbeltown, Cardross, Dalmally, Dunoon, Innellan, Lochgilphead, Oban, Rothesay and Taynuilt. More will follow in these locations and roll-out will continue across the area for the rest of this year and through until 2017.
The DSSB project in the area is funded by the Scottish and UK governments, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), COSLA, the European Regional Development Fund and private sector partners BT.
Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “These are exciting times for Argyll and Bute as the Digital Scotland rollout begins to gather momentum. Over the past year or so we’ve done an enormous amount of work building a core fibre network to serve the area, laying cables not just under the ground but also on the seabed to serve our island communities.
“Having laid the new network, we’re now seeing it bear fruit with the first communities in Argyll and Bute going live with the fast technology. Over the next year and a half we’ll see many more communities in the area benefitting from fibre broadband, as the roll-out, together with BT’s commercial rollout, reaches out to the majority of homes and businesses in the area.”
So far the project itself has reached almost 8,000 homes and added to the commercial roll-out this is around one in four Argyll and Bute premises.
Stuart Robertson, director of digital at HIE, said: “Last week we were in Oban to see how better broadband is already making a difference to local groups and businesses and their ability to work digitally. The First Minister met with the Argyll and Islands Tourism Co-operative, which is marketing the area online. I also met the team at internet services company Pole Position which works with many local businesses to develop their online presence. They are delighted at the arrival of superfast broadband in the town.
“It’s great to see these early connections. Our aim is to build a broadband infrastructure which will allow as many communities and businesses as possible access the same level of connectivity as is enjoyed in more urban locations.”
Lucy Hamilton, a web designer at Pole Postion, commented: "As an internet services company, Pole Position needs a reliable and fast broadband connection. We signed up to fibre as soon as it became available to us, and it has made a huge difference with uploading and downloading files, making our workflow more efficient and effective."
Where fibre broadband is available customers have to order it - it’s a different product from existing broadband and requires a new connection and equipment in your home.
While the budget and the technologies available in this first phase of the main fibre roll-out won’t reach everyone, Argyll and Bute is already leading the way in demonstrating how connections are possible in even the hardest to reach areas.
A community project called Gigaplus is underway to reach a number of island and mainland communities unlikely to be reached by the main roll-out. Led by eight local communities and supported by a £1m investment by Community Broadband Scotland, a wireless network is being designed to reach locations primarily in Lismore, Luing, Iona, Colonsay and parts of Jura, Islay, Mull and the Craignish peninsula.
Customers can check progress of the DSSB project at www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen and for information on GigaPlus at http://gigaplusargyll.co.uk/
When connected premises could have direct access to download speeds of up to 80 Mbps. These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. Speeds will also vary depending on the distance from the cabinet.
Due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within selected exchange areas will not initially be able to access fibre-based broadband.
Openreach is considering alternative solutions for these locations, and Community Broadband Scotland can support communities look at alternative options in the areas least likely to be reached by the roll-out.