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Highlands and Islands another step closer to next generation broadband

21 December 2012

An agreement to deliver the UK’s most complex broadband project to date is expected to be signed early in the New Year.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is very close to agreeing the detail of the multi-million pound project which will transform access to next generation broadband across the region.

As a key partner in the Scottish Government’s national programme to roll out access to next generation broadband across the country by the end of 2015, HIE has led the way on developing a pioneering project bringing together private and public funds to deliver fast, reliable broadband to every local authority area in the region. 

Research has indicated that the impact on growth of having next generation broadband could be worth as much as £70 million per year to the Highlands and Islands economy.

HIE has been in discussions with BT for some months and expects that, subject to final legal agreements, work will start on the ground early in the year.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE, said: “This is the most technologically complex and challenging project we have ever undertaken on behalf of the region, and we are very close to agreeing the detail of this first phase of the rollout. With estimates that fewer than a quarter of premises in our area would see commercial roll out by 2014, compared to two thirds of the UK,  we knew that if our communities and businesses were to benefit we would have to work together to find a way to do it.

“Having initially attracted funding for a pilot project with Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) we realised we could build on that to develop a network which would change the face of telecoms in the region.  We have therefore worked with Scottish Government and local authorities on a transformational project for the Highlands and Islands which will make a step change towards the provision of a world class future-proofed digital infrastructure.

“With an indicative allocation of central funding from the Scottish Government of £120m, which includes funding from BDUK, we are on schedule to begin the roll out as planned early next year. As well as bringing next generation broadband to every local authority area, this project will also provide technology which can expand coverage for other services like 3G and potentially reduce costs for businesses currently opting in to high speed private broadband circuits.”

The detail for roll out across the seven local authorities in the Highlands and Islands will be available in the New Year when the complex procurement process is completed.

Local authority areas are – The Highland Council, The Moray Council, Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), Argyll and Bute Council and part of North Ayrshire Council (Arran and The Cumbraes).

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