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Superfast broadband rollout reaches 70% of Scottish Highlands and Islands

Tuesday, April 26th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

More than 122,000 homes and businesses across Scotland’s Highlands and Islands now have access to superfast broadband.

More than 120 villages that wouldn’t have been reached through commercial rollouts can now get fibre-based broadband, with 70% of the region’s total number of premises able to connect.

New street cabinets to deliver the services to the first of the premises in Sullom Voe in Shetland, Dores at Loch Ness and Connel in Argyll are among the latest to have gone live, said Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is leading the £146m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project in the region.

Other local communities are set to follow, including John O’Groats in Caithness, Tankerness in Orkney and Castlebay (pictured) in the Outer Hebrides.

The extra rollout includes another 1,500 homes and businesses in Argyll and Bute, 2,000 in Highland, nearly 300 in Moray, more than 1,000 in Orkney, and more than 600 homes and businesses in the Outer Hebrides.

HIE said engineers expect the first fibre connections, which are being installed by Openreach, to be available in the villages by this autumn.

This first phase of the rollout is to set to reach 84% of premises by the end of 2016.

The speeds customers are able to get will depend on them being connected to a cabinet that has been enabled, and how far they are from the cabinet.

'Simply wasn't viable'

Last month, Cable.co.uk reported that thousands more premises in the Highlands and Islands had been connected to superfast broadband.

More than 6,000 premises in the Shetland Islands had been connected, with around 3,000 on the Isle of Skye set to follow.

That was set to be followed by Symbister with the first fibre connections being made available in the summer.

At the time Stuart Robertson, director of digital at HIE, said: “Without the public investment it simply wasn’t viable for the market to bring fibre to many parts of the Highlands.”

He said putting a core network in place would help the DSSB project reach more communities in the future.

“We won’t reach everyone in this first phase, but no one is forgotten,” said Mr Robertson.

“Digital Scotland partners, including our colleagues at Community Broadband Scotland, are looking at where we could reach with an additional phase of rollout and through community-led projects for those in the hardest to reach areas.”

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