Residents in a picturesque Lochaber village are celebrating climbing to new heights of connectivity with the arrival of superfast broadband for Kinlochleven. The latest broadband boost takes the total number of premises with access to the new fibre networks in the Highlands and Islands to more than 100,000.
Community representatives joined Digital Scotland partners at one of the top visitor attractions in the Highlands and Islands, Ice Factor Kinlochleven to mark the milestone for the region.
Kinlochleven homes and businesses join those in towns and villages from Shetland to Argyll which are seeing fibre based broadband roll-out to rural areas thanks to a £146m investment.
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project is being led in the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with work on the ground being carried out by Openreach, the local network division of private sector partners BT. Funding is coming from the Scottish Government and the UK Government as well as HIE and BT.
The 100,000 figure, which is more than a third of the region’s premises, reflects the numbers now able to access fibre networks both through the Digital Scotland investment and BT’s commercial roll-out.
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said: “Each month we see the number of rural communities with access to better broadband increasing. The roll-out of the massive fibre optic network being built across the Highlands and Islands is one of the most ambitious broadband projects ever undertaken.
“The introduction of superfast broadband is already making a difference to rural communities, as demonstrated here in Kinlochleven and other parts of Lochaber. This latest milestone in coverage marks another step forward in the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver world class connectivity in Scotland by 2020.”
Other locations in the Lochaber area where the first customers can order fibre based services include Spean Bridge, Fort William, and Corpach. The first services have also gone live in Ballachulish and Onich.
Roll-out will continue in these areas in the coming months and will reach others as part of this phase until the end of 2016, ultimately covering 84% of the region’s premises.
Carroll Buxton, HIE’s Director of Regional Development, said: “Kinlochleven is a Highland village with a remarkable history, in a stunning rural location and the community has a real shared ambition for business and community development. The investment to build brand new fibre optic networks right across the region will reach many rural communities which, like Kinlochleven, would not have been reached by the market. Bringing better broadband closer opens up new opportunities for the way people live and work in our communities.”
Entrepreneur and mountaineer Jamie Smith is one of the businessmen interested in making the most of better broadband. Owner of Snow Factor International, in 2003 he established Ice Factor Kinlochleven, the world’s largest indoor ice-climbing facility. It annually attracts over 130,000 visitors who come to learn and practise ice climbing and mountaineering skills.
Mr Smith commented: “As the owner of Ice Factor Kinlochleven, the National Centre for Ice Climbing and a major adventure tourism attraction in the Highlands and Islands, I am very pleased to see high speed broadband arrive in Kinlochleven. Throughout the year we attract visitors from both home and abroad who wish to experience the thrill and fun of ice-climbing and mountain-sport.
“As a business, our online presence, including the website and our social media platforms are vital for Ice Factor Kinlochleven to actively reach out and engage both current and future customers. It’s a great way of sharing all the great reasons to visit Kinlochleven, whatever the time of year and weather.”
As part of the event today HIE, BT and charity Citizens Online also met with local businesses, residents, and pupils from Kinlochleven High School and Primary School at the community owned Leven Centre to outline what the new network meant for the village. As well as the roll-out HIE also supports a number of initiatives to help people make better use of the internet, supported by the European Regional Development Fund.
The youngsters visited the green street cabinet in the village which houses the fibre. The broadband runs from there on existing copper lines to people’s premises, and depending on the distance of the house from the cabinet download speeds can be up to 80Mbps*.
Faster speeds makes it easier for people to access the internet, download and share large files, and use online software even when there are a few people in the household using it at once.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland Director, said: “Wiring up the Highlands and Islands for fibre is the biggest challenge our engineers face in the whole of the UK. So today is a real landmark. It’s amazing to think that more than 100,000 households and business premises can now connect to high-speed internet – around double the number we expected to reach in the Highlands and Islands with our commercial roll-out.
“We’re proud to be partners in this project, which is all about delivering a real and lasting digital future for our rural communities. Many of them are going from a current max of 8Mbps to up to 80Mbps. I hope the people of Kinlochleven and all the other places which can now get connected will give fibre broadband a go – they’ll never look back.”
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The UK Government's nationwide rollout of superfast broadband continues at pace and it's fantastic to see the huge progress made in Scotland to date. Every day we are reaching another 5000 homes and businesses across the UK and I'm delighted that the residents and businesses of Kinlochleven can now benefit from all that superfast speed has to offer."
Customers can check availability of services and progress on roll-out for all areas of Scotland on the Digital Scotland interactive checker www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen When available you won’t be upgraded automatically, you have to speak to an Internet Service Provider to order.