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Highlands village benefits from ‘ambitious’ Scottish fibre broadband rollout

Wednesday, June 10th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Residents in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands can now access fibre broadband.

The village of Kinlochleven in Lochaber has become the latest place to get superfast broadband as part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, led in the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The boost takes the total number of premises with access to fibre broadband in the Highlands and Islands to more than 100,000.

Bringing fibre to the area is the biggest challenge faced by BT engineers in the UK, according to the company, making the latest boost a “landmark”.

The rollout, which takes in towns and villages from Shetland to Argyll, is the product of a £146m investment, with funding coming from the Scottish Government, the UK Government, HIE and BT.

The figure of 100,000 premises – a third of those in the region - reflects the numbers able to access fibre through both the Digital Scotland investment and BT’s commercial rollout.

Commenting on the latest landmark, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Each month we see the number of rural communities with access to better broadband increasing.

“The rollout of the massive fibre optic network being built across the Highlands and Islands is one of the most ambitious broadband projects ever undertaken.”

'Stunning rural location'

He said superfast broadband is already making a difference to rural communities and the latest milestone is another step towards the Scottish government’s pledge to deliver world class connectivity in Scotland by 2020.

Other locations in the Lochaber area where the first customers can order fibre-based services include Spean Bridge, Fort William, and Corpach. The first services have also gone live in Ballachulish and Onich.

The rollout, which will continue in these areas in the coming months, will ultimately cover 84% of the region’s premises.

Carroll Buxton, HIE’s director of regional development, said: “Kinlochleven is a Highland village with a remarkable history, in a stunning rural location and the community has a real shared ambition for business and community development.

“The investment to build brand new fibre optic networks right across the region will reach many rural communities which, like Kinlochleven, would not have been reached by the market.

“Bringing better broadband closer opens up new opportunities for the way people live and work in our communities.”

'Never look back'

To mark the latest milestone, community representatives joined Digital Scotland partners at Ice Factor Kinlochleven, the world’s largest indoor ice-climbing facility and one of the region’s main tourist attractions.

Owner Jamie Smith welcomed the arrival of faster broadband, saying the business’s online presence is vital in reaching out to current and future customers.

BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: “Wiring up the Highlands and Islands for fibre is the biggest challenge our engineers face in the whole of the UK. So today is a real landmark.

“It’s amazing to think that more than 100,000 households and business premises can now connect to high-speed internet – around double the number we expected to reach in the Highlands and Islands with our commercial roll-out.”

He said the project is about delivering a “real and lasting digital future” for rural communities, adding: “Many of them are going from a current max of 8Mbps to up to 80Mbps.

“I hope the people of Kinlochleven and all the other places which can now get connected will give fibre broadband a go – they’ll never look back.”

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey added: “The UK government's nationwide rollout of superfast broadband continues at pace and it's fantastic to see the huge progress made in Scotland to date.”

Each day another 5,000 homes and businesses across the UK are reached, he said.

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