Moray communities to be among first to benefit from fast broadband scheme

Buckie, Lossiemouth, Hopeman and Lhanbryde are to be included in the first round of publicly-funded fibre broadband installations in Scotland.

The four Moray communities were revealed as part of stage one in a multi-million pound effort that should see these and other Highland communities being provided with internet speeds of up to 80mbps by next summer.

Representatives from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise and BT partnership tasked with delivering the fast broadband in rural communities throughout Scotland announced the timetable for the £146million project on Tuesday.

Working alongside BT’s commercial roll-out of fibre optic facilities it is expected that the project will ultimately deliver fast broadband to around 84% of premises in the region.

Banffshire & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson was one of the first to welcome the news that fibre optic broadband would land in Buckie next year.  He said: “This announcement of a major fibre broadband upgrade in Buckie is very welcome news indeed.

“It is critical to our local economy that we see investment in new communications technology to enable business to remain competitive with major urban centres and to attract new investment in businesses, including life sciences, which are viewed as so important to the area’s economic future.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that a world class digital infrastructure is in place across Scotland by 2020 and that a significant increase in coverage has been achieved by 2015. This investment will ensure that this ambition is achieved.”

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, added:  “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% 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 MSP, 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.”

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.”