John has welcomed the announcement made yesterday, Tuesday 26 March 2013, of a £146 million investment project to deliver high speed fibre broadband across the Highlands and Islands. Around 84 per cent of Highlands and Islands homes and businesses should have access to fast and reliable broadband by the end of the project.
The project is led by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and will be delivered by BT. The geography and demography of the region make it the UK’s most complex and challenging broadband project ever in terms of technology and cost.
The public sector contribution amounts to £126.4 million and will be delivered through the Scottish Government broadband fund. It includes funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) along with £12 million from HIE’s own budget. The remaining £19.4 million will be provided by BT.
The scale of the project is unprecedented. BT is to build a fibre backbone with more than 800km of new fibre on land and install hundreds more kilometres of fibre access cables. Around 400km of subsea cables over 19 crossings to remote islands will also be laid.
A £2.5 million Innovation Fund will also be dedicated to assessing new and emerging technology options in order to extend faster broadband to the most remote places in the Highlands and Islands.
Commenting on the announcement John said:
“I am delighted that the challenges regarding digital connectivity in the Highlands and Islands are to be addressed at last. Surely, the uniqueness of the region’s geography and demography could not justify the area being left behind.
“As any other part of Scotland, the Highlands and Islands are entitled to benefit from every tool necessary to a thriving economy and to delivering high-level public services.
“It is not only about international competitiveness. I am convinced that better access to fibre broadband will be a boon for local communities. I can only think of the opportunities arising, in terms of education and healthcare. It will really change the quality of life of people living in remote areas.
“I also welcome the important contribution from the Scottish Government as this project would have never come to light on a sole commercial basis.”