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Ring out the old, bring in the new – more than 100 towns and villages can access fibre broadband

28 December 2015

As 2015 draws to a close 150,000 homes and businesses in the Highlands and Islands now have access to next generation broadband.

At the start of 2014, only 4% of the region’s premises could get high speed fibre based services.  This figure has now reached 60%. By the end of 2016 more than 84% will have access to the fibre network.

More than 100,000 of these premises so far have been delivered through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) project, the rest have been delivered commercially by BT.

Funded by the Scottish and UK Governments, by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and private sector partners BT, the £146m DSSB project is creating a brand new fibre network to reach hundreds of rural towns and villages which would not have been reached otherwise.

HIE is leading on the project for the partnership, and it’s on schedule. Hundreds of kilometres of fibre optic cabling has been built around the region, both on land and sub-sea, to create a main core frame.  The next stage is the roll-out of the local infrastructure which brings services to communities – mainly green telecoms cabinets. This roll-out is also underway in every local authority area.

People in more than 100 towns and villages in our region can now order services if they want it – anyone can check availability on the Digital Scotland interactive map.

Coverage so far


  • Shetland – almost 6,000 premises – 51% coverage 
  • Orkney – more than 5,000 premises – 45% coverage
  • Outer Hebrides – more than 4,800 premises – 31% coverage
  • Highland – including commercial coverage of 82,000 premises – 68% coverage
  • Moray – including commercial coverage more than 36,000 premises – 80% coverage
  • Argyll and Bute –  including commercial coverage more than 21,000 premises – 43%

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital, said: “We are fast approaching the end of the second year of our initial three year project.  We’re on target to bring the option of faster broadband to more than 8 out of 10 of the region’s homes and businesses before the end of 2016.

“For those in the 100 towns and villages where there’s coverage we’d urge you to check availability.  You aren’t automatically upgraded from your existing ‘ADSL’ broadband – and it’s definitely worth finding out of you could get a faster service for much the same money. If you’re interested in making good use of whatever online services you have you might want to check out our events at too – we’ve a whole programme starting in the new year.

“For those we haven’t reached yet, we’re still working hard to get to as many people as we can.  Our target with the current budget was to get to at least 70% of premises in every of our local authority areas.  That isn’t easy, and 2016 is set to be challenging as we try to reach ever smaller communities of people. 

“While we won’t reach everyone in phase one the Digital Scotland partners, the local authorities and our colleagues at Community Broadband Scotland are already looking at the options to reach even further. We know how badly people want to find a solution to better broadband and as the gaps get smaller we are in a better place to help communities look at the best long term options within the technologies available.”

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director said: “This milestone is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved and brings many benefits to communities across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Openreach engineers are overcoming many engineering challenges every day to extend the reach of technology into new areas, many benefiting from including the subsea connections completed last year.

"Across Scotland, more than 1.9 million Scottish homes and businesses can now get connected to high-speed broadband on our open network, with a wealth of choice in cost and services. Whatever you are doing online, you can do it better and faster with fibre.

“We’re proud to be at the heart of digital life in Scotland. We look forward to bringing high-speed services to some of our most remote communities during 2016 and to Scotland’s economy growing by exploitation of new services.”

Leave a comment

iain campbell 09/01/2016

where can we get quotes for a bundle that includes fibre optic broadbnd, mobile and landline

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 11/01/2016

hi Iain, I'm afraid our job is rolling out the infrastructure which the providers can then use. We aren't allowed to recommend who you go with. However, if you google Ofcom and Internet Service Providers you'll find they have a long list. Also a comparison site like USwitch might be a place to try?

John Turner 19/01/2016

Two questions One Why is there no action plan to resolve the issue of small communities with exchange Activate broadband connections? We seem to be stuck in the no-mans land of too-small-and-distant-for-fibre and archaic Exchange activate infrastructure Surely it would provide a medium term solution to upgrade those of us with 0.5 mb fixed connections to something approaching 6mb?? At the current rate of resolving rural broadband issues, it will be 2050 before we get superfast broadband! Two When will you be launching the voucher scheme for satellite broadband?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 27/01/2016

Hi John - thanks for getting in touch. Every part of the Highlands and Islands was part of the planning process for the fibre network. And we continue to look at alternative options to help people in the hardest to reach areas find ways to get better connected if they can't be reached in the first phase. Can you email us please at with your phone number, postcode and address and we will see what the latest position is in your area. Re the satellite programme - it isn't yet available in Scotland yet, but you can register interest with us, at the same email address.

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