More than 800,000 premises across Scotland can now receive fibre broadband through the programme, with the technology going live in places like Lairg, Melvich, Birsay, Gairloch and Ollaberry for the first time. The new high-speed network has also been extended to more homes and businesses in many other communities.
Each week the programme, one of the largest broadband infrastructure projects in Europe, reaches more remote and rural areas, passing another 34,000 households and businesses across Scotland in the last six months.
Delivered through two projects – led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in its area and the Scottish Government in the rest of Scotland – funding partners include the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), BT Group, local authorities and the EU via the European Regional Development Fund.
Across the Highlands and Islands more than 860 new fibre street cabinets are now live and hundreds of miles of cable have been laid by engineers from Openreach, Scotland’s digital network business.
Fibre broadband offers fast and reliable broadband connections at speeds of up to 80Mbps* and there are many suppliers in the marketplace to choose from. Local people need to sign up for the new, faster services with an internet service provider, as upgrades are not automatic.
Whether you own a business, work from home or want to keep in touch with friends and family, fibre broadband enables multiple users to connect to the internet at high speeds and get better, faster access to online services.
Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, said: “To know that more of Scotland than ever now has fibre broadband available thanks to both the programme and commercial coverage is fantastic news. We are on target to reach 95% fibre coverage by the end of the year, with the programme progressing further and still extending coverage in places like Invergordon and Boat of Garten.
“I am aware that there are areas where there is still no superfast broadband. Work has started to get us there with publication of a public consultation on how best to “reach 100%”. This consultation outlines the number of premises - over 280,000 - which currently cannot access superfast speeds. While many of them already have access to some level of connectivity, often it is at slower speeds, so these premises will be the focus of our ambitious target to reach 100% superfast coverage.”
Stuart Robertson from Highlands and Islands Enterprise said: “Fibre access in our region has increased from only 4% of premises when the project started to around 86% today.
“We’ve reached more homes and businesses than initially planned within the contract, and roll out is continuing partly as a result of strong take-up. There’s further to go, but every place we reach brings the benefits of better connectivity to our Highlands and Islands communities.”
There is a downloadable update on the fibre roll-out for each of the HIE local authority areas at www.hie.co.uk/digitalnews
UK Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said: "I'm delighted that more than 800,000 Scottish homes and businesses have had their internet speeds boosted as part of our UK wide rollout of superfast broadband. By the end of this year 95 per cent of UK properties will have access to superfast speeds, but more needs to be done to make sure no-one is left behind.
It's great that coverage has now been extended to Scalpay and we'll continue to support Digital Scotland delivering on the ground so that by 2020 everyone in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, will have access to a fast, reliable and affordable internet connection."
Robert Thorburn, Openreach digital partnership director for Scotland, concluded: “We’re working flat out to bring high-speed fibre broadband to as many Scottish communities and households as possible and we’re continuing to make good progress.
“It’s fantastic to be reaching smaller communities such as Melvich, Gairloch and Kishorn and more people across the Highlands and Islands can now order their fastest-ever broadband speeds from a wide range of providers.
“With around a third of homes and businesses having upgraded to fibre so far, there’s plenty of scope for more Scots to benefit from much faster speeds.”
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme underpins the Scottish Government’s aim for Scotland to become a world class digital nation by 2020. Local people can check the HIE website to find out if they can get a fibre-based service.