The first eight areas which will go live in Scotland as part of a multi-million pound publicly-funded fibre broadband project are being announced today (Tuesday 15 October) in the Highlands and Islands.
Representatives of the partnership funding the £146m rollout were in Milton of Leys in Inverness to mark the milestone for a project which, together with BT’s commercial rollout, will ultimately bring faster broadband to around 84% of the region’s premises.
More than 16,000 homes and businesses on the outskirts of the Highland capital Inverness, and along the coast into Moray, will be the first to benefit.
Ardersier, Buckie, Milton of Leys, Fortrose, Hopeman, Inverness Culloden, Lhanbryde and Lossiemouth areas will be amongst the first to be able to access fibre broadband services, which provide speeds of up to 80Mbps*, from early 2014.
At the same time, Inverness Macdhui exchange, which is currently being upgraded as part of BT’s £2.5 billion commercial rollout, and Elgin, which is set for upgrade next year, are to have their fibre footprints extended.
Hailed as one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in Scotland’s recent history, the Highlands and Islands rural broadband project is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and delivered by BT. It is funded by the Scottish Government, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), HIE and BT.
Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said: “This is by far the most challenging rural broadband rollout in the UK and we are delighted that our first communities will be accessing services within months.
“Commercial rollout taking place across the UK would have reached no more than one in five premises in the Highlands and Islands. So the project’s target of 84% coverage levels for the region will represent a significant step change.
“This first rollout of fibre broadband will be available to customers who are connected to a number of street cabinets within the eight exchange areas. Homes and businesses will be able to check availability over the coming weeks and there will be further work carried out in these areas to extend the reach as the rollout progresses.”
The announcement is the first in a series of updates which will be made quarterly for the life of the project as the fibre network rolls out across the region. Anyone interested in superfast broadband rollout can keep up to date on a new Scotland wide website www.scotlandsuperfast.com being introduced by the Scottish Government.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead said: “The Scottish Government is determined to ensure that all communities can benefit from the opportunities of the digital age. This is demonstrated by our substantial investment - totalling about £64 million - in this infrastructure project, which is one of the most ambitious in Scotland’s history. I am delighted to see rural communities and businesses beginning to enjoy the benefits from this high quality digital connectivity which will be critical in ensuring the long-term economic prosperity of the Highlands and Islands.”
The Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael said: “The UK Government has contributed £50 million to make sure all families, communities and businesses in the Highlands and Islands have access to a high quality, fast broadband service and Highland and Islands Enterprise’s announcement today marks a significant step towards this goal.
“Broadband is vital for jobs, services and the economy in the Highlands and Islands so I’m pleased to see this investment in rural broadband in Scotland is starting to come to fruition as the first exchanges go live around Inverness and along the Moray coast.”
BT is to lay more than 800km of fibre backbone cable on land, and 400km more via 20 subsea crossings as part of the project.
Brendan Dick, Director, BT Scotland, said: “Today’s announcement means that early next year access to fibre broadband will be available to more than 14,400 homes and businesses around Ardersier, Buckie, Culloden, Milton of Leys, Fortrose, Hopeman, Lhanbryde and Lossiemouth, along with an additional 1,825 in Elgin and on the Inverness Macdhui exchange.
“This exciting technology will play a vital part in the area’s future success. It is crucial if local businesses are to continue to thrive in a competitive environment. Improved communications enhance businesses, helping them develop and generate more recruitment opportunities. Fibre broadband is also a huge boost for local households whether they use the internet for on-line training and development, shopping or entertainment.”
* These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. Due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within selected exchange areas will not initially be able to access fibre-based broadband. Alternative solutions for these locations are being investigated.