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 per cent 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 per cent 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.”
Note to editors:
* 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.
The overall aim of the Highlands and Islands Next Generation Broadband Project is to help meet the Broadband targets set out by the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and the European Commission.
By 2020 HIE’s ambition is that everyone in the Highlands and Islands is able to access broadband download speeds of at least 30 Mbps. By 2016 we want to have made a significant step towards meeting this target and the aspiration. Under the terms of the project, fibre-based broadband is expected to reach 84 per cent of the region’s premises by the end of 2016, including BT’s commercial deployment.
Commercial deployment alone would have reached 21 per cent. The total value of the project is £146m. The total public contribution is £126.4m with an additional £19.4m coming from BT.
The public sector investment of £126.4m is being delivered through the Scottish Government broadband fund, which incorporates funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), and also includes up to £12m from HIE’s own budget. There is no European funding involved in the initial phase of the project.
About Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is an economic and community development agency delivering the Scottish Government’s economic strategy across a region which covers more than half of Scotland.
With around 250 staff, HIE supports hundreds of client businesses and social enterprises; strengthens communities, particularly in fragile areas; develops key sectors, and invests in infrastructure to create a more competitive and low carbon region.
Our priority sectors for growth include Energy, Life Sciences, Food and Drink, Creative Industries, Tourism, Financial and business services and Universities.
You can visit our website at http://www.hie.co.uk follow us on Twitter @HIEScotland and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/highlandsandislandsenterprise
Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:
• £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017;
• £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities; and
• £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services.
Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.
For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk
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