A historic north-east fishing community is the first location in Scotland to become superfast broadband enabled as part of a £410m publicly-funded project.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today (Tuesday 18 February 2014) announced that the first cabinet bringing next generation broadband services to rural Scotland is now live in the Moray town of Buckie.
The announcement signals the start of the most challenging next generation broadband project to be undertaken anywhere in the UK. The new fibre backbone will extend to remote communities across Scotland and will provide a platform for future economic development and regeneration across the region.
Around 400 premises in Buckie can now order fibre services and this figure will increase to more than 5,300 as BT engineers complete the local upgrade in the weeks ahead. Additional locations across Scotland will follow, with broadband infrastructure installed and upgraded across the country.
In the Highlands and Islands this will include other parts of Moray and around Inverness which are due to go live by April.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Today marks an important milestone for the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership and for the people of Buckie who are the first in Scotland to benefit from this service.
“It’s fantastic news that local households and businesses will now see the benefits of high quality digital connectivity.
“The scale of the challenge of delivering fibre broadband into rural Scotland outstrips any other part of the UK.
“This is one of the most ambitious broadband infrastructure projects ever to have been undertaken and will see 95% of premises in Scotland covered by 2017/18
“This is an important step towards ensuring that Scotland has world-class digital connectivity by 2020. Our investment, and that of our partners in the project, will extend access to superfast broadband across Scotland. This will be a key factor in ensuring Scotland’s long-term economic prosperity.”
UK Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “More than 600,000 Scottish homes and businesses will be able to access superfast broadband as a result of the Government’s program, which will see a remarkable transformation of broadband throughout the country. The UK already does more business online than any other European country and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to Scotland’s economy.”
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project is being delivered in two parts – one covering the Highlands and Islands and the other covering the rest of Scotland. Both projects are being delivered on the ground by BT. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is leading on the £146m project for its region.
Alex Paterson, HIE’s Chief Executive, commented: “The introduction of high-speed broadband in Buckie marks the start of a rollout process which will ensure the Highlands and Islands fulfils its ambition to be a digital region.
“Creating the fibre network which lies at the heart of this project is a massive engineering feat, and the effects for business and communities will be transformational. As well as the social implications in homes across the region, the project has the potential to impact on everything from how we innovate our businesses, and how we deliver our health services to how we open up new markets and attract investors.
“Without public investment a fibre network on this scale simply would not have happened commercially and we are committed to ensuring as many people as possible benefit across the region.”
In delivering the Highlands and Islands project BT will rollout more than 800km of new fibre on land, and another 400km of subsea cables connecting the island communities. Coverage levels in all seven local authority areas within the Highlands and Islands project area will represent a significant step change for fibre broadband.
Brendan Dick, director, BT Scotland, said: “The importance of this rather insignificant looking roadside cabinet cannot be underestimated. It’s the milestone that marks the first time access to fast fibre broadband has been provided to anyone in Scotland as part of this exciting programme.
“Taking fibre broadband to the Highlands and Islands is the most challenging engineering project BT is tackling in the UK. It’s a massive operation which includes the complexities of laying 20 subsea fibre cables in a six-month weather window kicking off in May so it’s great to see our extensive planning and logistics paying off with a live cabinet here in Buckie.
“The internet is playing an increasingly important part in all our lives – whether it’s small businesses keeping in touch with their customers and suppliers, children doing their homework or playing interactive games online, grandparents staying in touch with their grandchildren, or people working from home. Each of these things is made easier, quicker and better by faster fibre broadband.”
During the life of the project, BT, HIE and Scottish Government will also be assessing new and emerging technology options through a £2.5 million Innovation Fund, with a view to extending faster broadband to the most remote places in Scotland.
HIE is also leading the nationwide delivery of the £5m Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) initiative, which forms part of the Scottish Governments national digital strategy. CBS is a £5 million initiative targeted at those communities that are least likely to benefit from a next generation broadband solution under the Step Change Programme. The programme provides advice, guidance and project funding to help communities deliver improved digital connectivity.
The rest of Scotland project is being led by the Scottish Government, working together with local authorities and Broadband Delivery UK in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This is being supported through £157.6million public funding including £50 million from BDUK and BT investment of £106.7million. The public funding for the rest of Scotland project includes around £51 million which has been invested by fourteen local authorities to increase coverage, meet local priorities and address the digital divide in their areas.
About Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is an economic and community development agency delivering the Scottish Government’s economic strategy across a region which covers more than half of Scotland.
With around 250 staff, HIE supports hundreds of client businesses and social enterprises; strengthens communities, particularly in fragile areas; develops key sectors, and invests in infrastructure to create a more competitive and low carbon region.
Our priority sectors for growth include Energy, Life Sciences, Food and Drink, Creative Industries, Tourism, Financial and Business Services and Universities.
Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:
Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.
For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk
BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Retail, BT Wholesale and Openreach.
For the year ended 31 March 2013, BT Group’s reported revenue was £18,103m with reported profit before taxation of £2,315m.
British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.
For more information, visit www.btplc.com