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Fibre broadband arrives in Loch Ness - but not for everyone

Wednesday, August 12th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Fibre broadband will be rolled out to villages around Loch Ness over the next six months.

Around 1,300 homes and businesses in Dochgarroch, Dores, Drumnadrochit, Foyers, Glenmoriston, Glenurquhart and Fort Augustus will get access to superfast broadband speeds.

Work is also starting to bring fibre services to Cannich and information on more places in the area should be available later this year.

Cable.co.uk reported earlier this year that the area’s “awful” broadband was driving both locals and tourists away.

Andy Holt, who runs a business from his home in Inverfarigaig on the south-east shore of the loch, said the fastest broadband speed most people in the area can get is about 0.5Mbps.

“It’s diabolical,” he told Cable.co.uk. “For the last year or two we’ve had frequent questions about broadband in the towns and villages, but it’s slow or non-existent.”

The arrival of fibre services at Loch Ness forms part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollout, led in the area by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is targeting areas that aren't covered by commercial broadband programmes.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “While Loch Ness’s most famous inhabitant may be a bit technology shy, better broadband will be of huge benefit to the homes, businesses and tourists who live, work and stay there.

“This is another step forward in the rollout of a fibre network which is bringing superfast broadband to rural communities and businesses, often for the first time.”

However, residents are being warned that the rollout will not reach everyone around the loch.

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s director of digital, said: “We are using a range of technologies to reach as many people as we can in many villages round the loch. This will include building new cabinets and some fibre nodes.

'Challenging area to reach'

“The challenging geography, smaller population numbers and more scattered communities make this a really challenging area to reach. There are communities where numbers are currently too small, or homes are too dispersed for us to provide a viable solution.

“We will continue to look at the best ways to reach more people. This could get easier as technology improves, as more funding comes through for future phases, and with the support of Community Broadband Scotland to consider alternative technology options where required.”

It was announced earlier this week that almost £18m will be made available in Scotland to take the fibre rollout further.

Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “We’re making good headway with the Digital Scotland rollout, passing 7,000 more premises a week.

“It’s great news that some iconic and very rural Highland locations are next in line to benefit, including a number of Loch Ness communities. Maybe even Nessie will go online.

“On the back of strong take-up of fibre services in partnership areas, BT is releasing additional funds which will enable us to go even further at no extra cost to the taxpayer much earlier than originally expected.

“Around £17.8m is available for Scotland to help us reach even more communities like the ones we’re announcing today.”

Digital minister Ed Vaizey said: “Our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband has now reached more than 3m homes and businesses in the UK, with more than 394,000 in Scotland alone now able to connect to the new fibre network.

“The UK government is investing £120m to rollout superfast broadband in Scotland and I’m delighted at the tremendous progress being made which will see around 95% of Scotland able to access superfast speeds by March 2018.”

Picture courtesy of Sam Fentress.

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