More than 1,200 homes and businesses in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands can now order next generation fibre broadband thanks to the Digital Scotland public-private partnership.
This is just the start of roll-out for Orkney, with services coming soon for around another 550 premises in the town. And partner representatives are in Kirkwall to announce work during the next six months will connect more people in Kirkwall, plus other areas across the mainland and into Burray and S Ronaldsay.
BT engineers will be building local networks to bring fibre broadband to areas in Burray, Deerness, Evie, Finstown, Harray, Holm, and St. Margaret's Hope. As already announced work will continue for Stromness.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Director of Digital, Stuart Robertson and Director of BT Scotland, Brendan Dick were joined by MSP Liam McArthur and Steven Heddle, Convener of Orkney Islands Council at the Cromwell Drive area near the harbour – one of the areas already taking orders for fibre based broadband with speeds up to 80Mbps*.
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.
John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, said: “We are seeing growing momentum in the roll-out of better broadband. Homes and businesses in rural communities from Orkney and Shetland to Dumfries-shire are already able to order. The project is developing a high speed fibre network which is changing the face of broadband and helping fulfil the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver world class connectivity in Scotland by 2020.
“We’re reaching out to those who would not have been covered through the commercial market - in cities, in towns and into some of our most rural areas. The connections will bring benefits to the Scottish people at home and in business.”
Stuart Robertson, Director of Digital at HIE, said: “With each step we bring fibre closer to communities which could not have hoped to receive it without this investment. In Orkney today we are announcing that 1200 Kirkwall premises can now order fibre based broadband, with more coming soon.
“Work will continue for Stromness, which has previously been announced, and move on to St Margaret’s Hope, Deerness, Evie and others to reach more than 2,500 further homes. The project is changing the future of digital access for the Orkney Islands.”
Steven Heddle, Orkney Islands Council Convener, said: “We welcome the arrival of next generation fibre based broadband to Kirkwall. This will be the first area in Orkney to receive this service, and we’re heartened by the news that BT are currently working on more exchanges throughout the Orkney mainland, to increase coverage throughout this summer.
“However it’s vital that work does not stop here – we hope that future programmes will help further close the digital divide in Scotland, which in Orkney is most severely felt in our island communities.”
The announcement forms part of a national roll-out announcement which will also see the first Argyll islands, the Outer Hebrides and the first locations in the Cairngorms National Park connected. See a full list of roll-out below.
Around 217,000 homes and businesses are already able to get better connected across Scotland thanks to the Scotland £410m Digital Scotland partnership. Made up of two projects, one for the Highlands and islands and one for the rest of Scotland, both are being delivered on the ground by BT, which is investing £126m in the programme.
Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “This is a tremendous day for the people of Orkney. Access to fibre broadband will transform the route to market for local businesses and strengthen the economy of the islands.
This exciting technology will bring social and economic benefits to our islands and we’re making great headway, with the service now live on Orkney and Shetland ahead of schedule, and the Western Isles, Mull and Bute poised to follow in their wake.”
In total, more than three quarters of a million Scottish homes and business premises are expected to benefit from the initiative.
UK Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “Our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband continues at pace and it's fantastic to see the huge progress made in Scotland to date.
“Today's announcement of the next 43 places in Scotland to benefit from our investment will see another 54,000 more homes and businesses join the 216,000 properties we've already reached. This huge boost to connectivity is a key part of the Government's long term economic plan and we're on track to reach 95 per cent of the UK by 2017."
Fibre broadband enables multiple users in a home or business to access the internet, download and share large files at the same time and more quickly than ever before. As the higher speeds become available, anyone interested in signing up for fibre-based services should contact their service provider.
Users can check the interactive map to find out if they can get the service and further information is also available on Twitter @HIEdigital
*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 be able to access fibre-based broadband at the same point in the roll-out. Further announcements will be made as more areas are able to access the growing fibre infrastructure.
All forward looking plans are subject to change. The expectations reflected in this forward-looking plan are reasonable, but because our rollout involves risks and uncertainties, actual results may differ from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking plans.