Fibre broadband coverage in the Highlands and Islands

With 30,000 premises now able to order fibre based broadband through a public investment project, HIE gives detail on the reach so far.

More than 15,500 homes and businesses in Moray, 12,000 in Highland, almost 2,000 in Argyll and more than 4,000 in Shetland can now order high-speed fibre broadband thanks to the £410M Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership.

The local homes and businesses – in 26 locations ranging from Lerwick to Oban and Cardross – are among more than 30,000 across the Highlands and Islands which can now access broadband services at speeds of up to 80Mbps*. See the latest list of places live and where work is starting in the next six months here.

And even more will be able to connect in the months ahead as engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach, press ahead with the roll-out across the country. The Digital Highlands and Islands project, which will bring faster, fibre based broadband to 84% of the region’s premises by the end of 2016 is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

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. Many local families can now connect to the new technology for the first time, gaining access to new opportunities in areas like online learning and entertainment. It also helps businesses and organisations to diversify and expand their services.

A new interactive map is now live for anyone who wants to check how the roll-out looks in their area. When fibre is available customers can order through an internet service provider.

Announcing the milestone, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The rollout of superfast broadband will allow more households in Highland to connect to fibre broadband services for the first time, as well as giving businesses the opportunity to enhance their services.

“It marks another significant step for Scotland and the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership. This is the fastest roll-out of its kind anywhere in the UK, passing 150,000 premises across Scotland, including 30,000 in the Highlands and Islands, in record time – an engineering feat.

“We are still in the early stages, but already thousands of Scottish homes and businesses are able to take advantage and sign up. They simply wouldn’t have had access to high-speed technology without this ambitious partnership project.”

The Digital Scotland rollout consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the rest of Scotland. Both projects are being delivered on the ground by BT, which is investing £126m in the programme.

HIE’s Stuart Robertson, Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, commented: “Given we had so little fibre in the Highlands and Islands the public investment in this roll-out will make an enormous difference to the broadband provision we have across the region.

“There are two main parts to the roll-out, the first is building a huge new network to bring fibre to places it has never been before, and then rolling out the local networks and connections needed to get it to homes and businesses. We are making excellent progress in building the main fibre backbone across the area, and access for 30,000 premises is a great start.”

So far, across the region engineers have laid almost 400km of sub-sea cable to link island communities, around the same again on land, and installed more than 100 new street cabinets which connect homes to the network.

Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “The Digital Scotland projects constitute a massive civil engineering challenge. A lot of the early work has been in planning, surveying and building central infrastructure.

“So it’s really a remarkable achievement to see fibre broadband services already reaching 150,000 homes and business premises in more than 120 communities Scotland wide. This is just the start for many of these locations as our engineers continue work on local upgrades.”

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The digital landscape of Scotland is going through a remarkable transformation. The UK Government is investing £120 million in superfast broadband for Scotland, and I’m delighted that more than 150,000 Scottish homes and businesses are already able to benefit from the work done so far.”

In total, more than three quarters of a million homes and business premises are expected to benefit from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative. Funding partners include the Scottish Government, HIE, the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), local authorities and the European Regional Development Fund as well as BT.

Alongside commercial roll-out, the Digital Scotland programme will see around 95 per cent of premises in Scotland able to connect to fibre broadband infrastructure by the end of 2017/18. Locations will be announced quarterly for the life of the projects as the fibre network expands.

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