Loch Ness is one of the next areas to see work start on fibre networks which will bring high-speed broadband to many local villages.
Around 1,300 homes and businesses in the Dochgarroch, Dores, Drumnadrochit, Foyers, Glenmoriston, Glenurquhart and Fort Augustus areas will get access to faster broadband speeds. Work is also starting to bring fibre services to Cannich.
These places are the first around Loch Ness where work will be happening over the next six months.Information on more locations in the area may be available later in the year.
The news comes on the same day as the UK Government has announced the nationwide rollout of superfast broadband has now passed more than three million UK homes and businesses. The rollout is on track to reach 95 per cent of the UK by 2017 and is now reaching around 5,000 additional premises every day.
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, led in the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), is bringing better broadband to thousands of homes and businesses which could not be reached by the private sector’s commercial fibre broadband programme.
The Loch Ness coverage forms part of a three year £146m roll-out, funded by the Scottish Government, the UK Government, HIE and private sector partner BT, with engineers from BT’s local network business Openreach delivering the project on the ground. Other areas where work is due to start over the next six months are listed below.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:“While Loch Ness’s most famous inhabitant may be a bit technology shy, better broadband will be of huge benefit to the homes, businesses and tourists who live, work and stay there.
“This is another step forward in the roll-out of a fibre network which is bringing superfast broadband to rural communities and businesses, often for the first time. The Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring we have the first-rate digital infrastructure we need to be a world class digital nation by 2020.”
While the roll-out will not reach everyone around the Loch, the new networks will dramatically improve connectivity in the area, delivering speeds of up to 80Mbps for those able to connect through fibre broadband cabinets and more for those able to access and install fibre to the premise.
Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital, commented: “We are using a range of technologies to reach as many people as we can in many villages round the Loch.This will include building new cabinets and some fibre nodes.
“The challenging geography, smaller population numbers and more scattered communities make this a really challenging area to reach.There are communities where numbers are currently too small, or homes are too dispersed for us to provide a viable solution.
“We will continue to look at the best ways to reach more people. This could get easier as technology improves, as more funding comes through for future phases, and with the support of Community Broadband Scotland to consider alternative technology options where required.”
The new locations announcement follows news earlier this week that almost £18 million will be made available in Scotland to take the rollout of fibre broadband further.
Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “We’re making good headway with the Digital Scotland rollout, passing 7,000 more premises a week. It’s great news that some iconic and very rural Highland locations are next in line to benefit, including a number of Loch Ness communities. Maybe even Nessie will go online!
“Across the UK, 23 million premises are now covered by BT’s open access network, with three million of those enabled under the BDUK programme. Our Openreach engineers have worked tirelessly to connect some of the most remote parts of Scotland, from Shetland and the Hebrides to Rothesay in Argyll and Bute, and now places like Dores and Drumnadrochit are set to follow.
“On the back of strong take-up of fibre services in partnership areas, BT is releasing additional funds which will enable us to go even further at no extra cost to the taxpayer much earlier than originally expected. Around £17.8 million is available for Scotland to help us reach even more communities like the ones we’re announcing today.”
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: "Our nationwide rollout of superfast broadband has now reached more than 3 million homes and businesses in the UK, with more than 394,000 in Scotland alone now able to connect to the new fibre network. The UK Government is investing £120m to rollout superfast broadband in Scotland and I'm delighted at the tremendous progress being made which will see around 95 per cent of Scotland able to access superfast speeds by March 2018."