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Highlands and Islands broadband roll-out extended

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband roll-out is targeting 25,000 additional homes and businesses in the Highlands and Islands region

Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) is aiming to provide a superfast (24Mbps and above) broadband service to 25,000 more homes and businesses in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in a major extension to the government-backed project.

At an event held in Tomintoul, where the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust (TGDT) has just completed a £500,000 refurbishment of the Tomintoul Discovery Centre, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the new round of extended broadband coverage.

“This is excellent news for the Highlands – delivering access to superfast broadband to more than 250 Highlands and Islands communities for the first time,” she said.

“The £146m project has passed its original targets and is providing opportunities for businesses and communities across the region to transform the way they work. The Tomintoul Discovery Centre is just one of the businesses now benefitting from superfast broadband and is an example of how they’ve used it to enhance their visitors’ experience.”

As part of the refurbishment, the Tomintoul Discovery Centre is using virtual reality (VR) and 360⁰ video to recreate local history and bring it to life for visitors, something that would be impossible without fit-for-purpose connectivity.

The Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) DSSB project started in 2014 and so far has delivered services to 124,000 of the most remote homes and businesses in the UK.  Led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the £146m programme has been delivered – to date – through Openreach. A second contract, worth £226m, covers the rest of Scotland.

More recently, the Scottish government’s Reaching 100% (R100) project has been running in parallel, with the intention of delivering a superfast service to every premises in Scotland by 2021.

“We will build on this success and our Reaching 100% programme, backed by £600m, will deliver superfast broadband access to every home and business in Scotland by the end of 2021 – the only part of the UK to do so,” said Sturgeon.

Doug Nisbet, TGDT chair, added: “Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust are delighted to welcome the first minister to our Discovery Centre and demonstrate the cutting edge technology which brings our area’s natural and cultural heritage to life.

“The centre is testament to our community and demonstrates what can be achieved when communities work together to a common vision. Our area hosts many innovative businesses at the forefront of their field, and TGDT welcomes the announcement that more properties in the Highlands will benefit from superfast broadband. We look forward to the connection of all properties in our area to the fibre network.”

According to HIE, the project has seen more than 1,200km of fibre backhaul cables laid to create a core network, including 20 subsea routes to island communities, and 900 new cabinets have been deployed.

Seven new BT exchanges for the extended roll-out are being targeted initially – these are Kilchenzie and Kilniver in Argyll and Bute, Glendale, Torridon and Waternish in the Highlands, Machrie in North Ayrshire, and Great Bernera in the Outer Hebrides.

In addition to this, the extension will improve access across 80 existing project areas, and boost speeds for some areas yet to be addressed.

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