Shetland set for superfast broadband

SHETLAND is set to be Scotland’s first island community to get superfast fibre optic broadband as part of a £410 million project to improve internet speeds in rural areas across the country.

Up Helly Aa in Lerwick. The Shetland capital is set to benefit from superfast broadband. Picture: Robert Perry
Up Helly Aa in Lerwick. The Shetland capital is set to benefit from superfast broadband. Picture: Robert Perry

Homes and businesses in Lerwick, on the Shetland mainland, join Keith in Moray as the latest areas to come online in the Digital Highlands and Islands project. The project will deliver fibre broadband to 84 per cent of premises across the region by 2016.

The project will see fibre broadband services offering speeds of up to 80 megabits per second become available in the autumn, once BT engineers deploy the necessary technology.

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Keith and Lerwick will both receive high speed technology for the first time, while additional premises in Nairn, Dingwall and Fort William will also be covered. Around 6,500 premises in total are set to benefit across the locations.

News welcomed

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband partnership is about rolling out reliable fibre services to our most remote areas. The first live locations in the Highlands and Islands were announced in February and around 10,000 premises can now access fibre broadband as a direct result of the project.”

“This is an important step towards ensuring that Scotland has world-class digital connectivity by 2020. Our investment, and that of our partners in the project, will extend access to superfast broadband across Scotland. This will be a key factor in ensuring Scotland’s long-term economic prosperity.”

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the Rest of Scotland.

In total, more than three quarters of a million homes and business premises are expected to benefit from the scheme.

The Highlands and Islands portion of the project, with a price tag of £146m, is being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) . Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said: “The start on cabinets in Lerwick is great news for the local community.

“The project is working hard to rollout fibre broadband to our other island communities as soon as possible too. Major infrastructure work is scheduled to begin in the summer on the UK’s biggest sub-sea cabling project.

“It’s a mammoth and unprecedented undertaking – with 20 crossings in locations including Islay, Mull, Stornoway and South Uist.”

More broadband locations to be announced

New locations to come online will be announced each quarter for the life of the three year project.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland Director, said: “Today marks an important next phase in our deployment, with the first island community now set to connect to fibre broadband several months ahead of schedule. This technological sea change will help island locations such as Lerwick to compete and thrive in the 21st century.

“New locations for fibre will be announced regularly as our engineers carry out detailed local surveys and finalise plans. Delivering a project on this scale is one of the most significant challenges we’ve faced anywhere in the UK in recent years, with our sub-sea cable laying programme set to break records later this year.”

UK Government Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The UK Government is investing over £120m in broadband for Scotland and widespread access to superfast speeds will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.”#