Homes and businesses in Lerwick on Shetland are set to be Scotland’s first island community to get fibre broadband as part of the £410 million Digital Scotland partnership.
Lerwick joins Keith in Moray as the latest areas to be announced as part of the Digital Highlands and Islands project which will deliver fibre broadband to 84% of premises across the region by 2016. They will see fibre broadband services offering speeds of up to 80Mbps* roll out in the autumn, as BT engineers deploy the technology.
Keith and Lerwick will both receive high speed technology for the first time. Additional premises in Nairn, Dingwall and Fort William will also be covered, building on BT’s commercial rollout in these areas. Around 6,500 premises are set to benefit across the locations.
Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister, said: “The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership is about rolling out reliable fibre services to our most remote areas. The first live locations in the Highlands and Islands were announced in February and around 10,000 premises can now access fibre broadband as a direct result of the project.”
“This is an important step towards ensuring that Scotland has world-class digital connectivity by 2020. Our investment, and that of our partners in the project, will extend access to superfast broadband across Scotland. This will be a key factor in ensuring Scotland’s long-term economic prosperity.”
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the Rest of Scotland.
In total, more than three quarters of a million homes and business premises are expected to benefit from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative. In the Highlands and Islands, the £146m project is led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and funding partners include the Scottish Government, HIE, and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). BT, the selected private sector partner who is rolling out the open access fibre network, is investing £19 million in the area.
Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said: “The start on cabinets in Lerwick is great news for the local community. The project is working hard to rollout fibre broadband to our other island communities as soon as possible too. Major infrastructure work is scheduled to begin in the summer on the UK’s biggest sub-sea cabling project. It’s a mammoth and unprecedented undertaking – with 20 crossings in locations including Islay, Mull, Stornoway and South Uist.”
Locations are being announced quarterly for the life of the three year project. Further local detail will be provided as plans advance and anyone interested in the roll-out can keep up to date and get more detail at www.digitalscotland.org or at www.hie.co.uk/digital
The partnership programme is in addition to BT’s £2.5b UK commercial rollout, which will bring faster fibre broadband within reach of more than 1.4 million Scottish homes and businesses, with more than one million premises already passed.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland Director, said: “Today marks an important next phase in our deployment, with the first island community now set to connect to fibre broadband several months ahead of schedule. This technological sea change will help island locations such as Lerwick to compete and thrive in the 21st century.
“New locations for fibre will be announced regularly as our engineers carry out detailed local surveys and finalise plans. Delivering a project on this scale is one of the most significant challenges we’ve faced anywhere in the UK in recent years, with our sub-sea cable laying programme set to break records later this year. It’s great to see this major step forward today, which will benefit rural communities on and off the Scottish mainland.”
The new fibre based network will be open to all communications providers on an equivalent basis. Households and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market, bringing greater choice and affordable prices from a wide range of service providers.
UK Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This next round of exchange announcements is symbolic of the huge transformation of Broadband that is taking in place in Scotland and across the whole of the UK. The UK Government is investing over £120m in broadband for Scotland and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.”