£120 million is to be spent on upgrading the broadband infrastructure of Scotland's Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Government announced today.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who are in discussions with BT, can roll out a programme to deliver world class connectivity for the region, which will is estimated to be completed by 2020. A broad range of technical solutions to bring next-gen broadband to the region will include laying underground and sub-sea cables to connect the distant island communities.
Speaking via the Convention of Highlands and Islands, Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment said;
"Scotland’s ambition to deliver world-class digital connectivity by 2020 has received a boost today, with the announcement of £120 million for the Highlands and Islands."
"Everybody in the Highlands and Islands recognises the importance of access to superfast broadband, not just for the future of our local economies but indeed for the future of our children, for our education, our health and every aspect of life in the modern world."
The need for a broadband upgrade in these parts of Scotland was thrown into sharp relief last week. A BT fault, coupled with a subsequent cable theft, meant coastguard volunteers on the Shetland Islands had to man the coasts in order to keep watch for any potential accidents.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of the HIE, said: "This funding puts the Highlands and Islands on track to deliver the largest and most challenging rural broadband project in the UK. By bringing together the expertise and investment of both the private and public sector we want to roll out a service which will change the face of the region."
"Businesses and communities will see benefits where they matter most including in education, in supporting healthcare services and by opening up new markets. Our ultimate aim is for all parts of the Highlands and Islands to benefit and this news brings us a step closer to our goal."
The HIE exists to promote the business interests of the Highlands and Islands areas in the north-west of Scotland.
Part of the Scottish Government’s plan on next-gen broadband is to see 85-90 per cent of Scottish homes and businesses touched by fibre (40Mbps-80Mbps) by 2015. The plan also sees measures put in place to connect the remaining 15-10 per cent over the following five years.
Presumably, these locations will be able to get upgrades to faster connections on demand. BT is due to begin faster speed upgrades next month and has stated that it's network is theoretically capable of 1Gbps speeds.
Imagde credit: Flickr user sedoglia