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Public investment brings fibre broadband to Far North

22 January 2015

Next generation fibre broadband is available now to the first customers in Wick and Thurso.

More than 6,700 homes and businesses in the two Caithness towns are able to order fibre based broadband now, with speeds of up to 80 mbps, delivered through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project.

This is just the start for the North which will see roll-out continue in the towns and across a number of new areas of Caithness in 2015.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is leading on the £146m partnership investment for the region which is bringing better broadband to rural communities. Funded by the Scottish Government, Broadband Delivery UK, HIE itself and private partners BT, the project is set to increase access to fibre based services from the 21% which would have seen rollout commercially to 84% of premises in the Highlands and Islands.

Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “It’s fantastic to see the project extending into places like Wick and Thurso, which will really benefit from the economic advantages fibre broadband brings, as well as the opportunities that it can bring to local communities allowing them to get online easily and quickly. It’s a fundamental part of the Scottish Government’s aim to deliver world class connectivity by 2020, and the arrival of fibre to the towns is helping to ensure that it happens.”

Director of Digital at HIE Stuart Robertson, said: “We are delighted that the project has brought the first services to Wick and Thurso, and ahead of the roll-out schedule. Three quarters of premises in the two exchange areas can order and we’ve only just started in Caithness.

“The project is changing the future of digital access for Caithness and Sutherland – and without funding from the Scottish Government, BDUK, HIE and BT none of the towns or villages would have seen fibre roll-out.”

BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: “Bringing fibre broadband to our remote and rural communities is exactly what this project is all about. Wick and Thurso are typical of the kind of communities which stand to gain most from modern technology, despite the challenges we faced in building infrastructure in the far north of Scotland.

“This is another landmark for the partnership project because, while we already have fibre up and running in Shetland, Wick and Thurso are now home to the most northerly cabinets to go live on the Scottish mainland. The arrival of fibre broadband will play a huge part in the sustainable, economic and social development of both communities.”

Potential customers can check availability with their internet provider. Also, there’s an interactive map online where you can check your phone number or postcode for the latest information on roll-out.

There are two main parts to the roll-out across the region. The first is building a huge new network to bring fibre to places it has never been before, and then rolling out the local networks and connections needed to get it to homes and businesses.

The first local connections in Wick and Thurso have been delivered through ‘fibre to the cabinet’ technology. Fibre is run to green cabinets and then services are delivered to homes along existing copper telephone wires.

Roll-out in the towns will continue. Some more of the existing cabinets still being processed will come through soon, and later this year the project will build new cabinets to cater for a number of customers who currently receive their services direct from the exchange.

Caithness Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Trudy Morris highlighted the opportunities which the new services will offer over the coming years. “The availability of fibre to businesses and communities is increasingly important. It’s a big part of many people’s daily lives, and can bring benefits in meeting the expectations of our customers, delivering services efficiently and in reaching new markets. The role of the internet is only likely to increase in the coming years and the introduction of a future proofed, resilient high speed network is key to allowing us to meet our ambitions.”

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