Duntulm and Sligachan on Skye are amongst four additional Highland areas which will now see benefits from superfast broadband.
In addition other island locations such as Carbost, Duntulm, Isle Ornsay, Raasay, Skeabost Brridge and Staffin can expect to see some roll out including extended coverage.
The news comes as part of an announcement that the Highlands and Islands will see more fibre broadband coverage for homes and businesses into 2017, thanks to the early success of the region’s Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) project.
Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the rural economy and connectivity, has announced that strong take up figures mean that an additional £2.3m is being re-invested back into the project.
BT has achieved efficiencies in the current contract and has also offered to return ‘gainshare’ funding early after strong take-up, so a further 6,000 premises will be reached by the project next year. It will take total access to the fibre network in the region (including commercial roll-out) to around 86%.
Mr Ewing said: “There is nowhere in the UK where a broadband project has made a bigger difference to connectivity than in the Highlands and Islands. This first phase of roll-out has significantly increased access, with coverage across the region to be at least 84%, compared to just 21% that would have been delivered commercially. Thanks to the success of the DSSB project, I am delighted that more premises than originally planned will now have the opportunity to benefit from reliable broadband.”
Charlotte Wright, Chief Executive at HIE, said: “Good levels of take-up and efficient delivery of the contract have allowed us to re-invest in the project, extending the coverage in Highlands and Islands further again.
“Superfast broadband is now available to order in 200 towns and villages which would not have been reached without the public investment. By the time we are finished in 2017 there will be even more. Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides, Highland, Moray and Argyll and Bute will all see some of the fibre routes extended. In addition, four areas which were not initially in the roll-out will see some coverage – Duntulm and Sligachan on Skye, Sandness in Shetland; and Scarista in the Western Isles. ”
“The next steps will be to look at how we reach further and ultimately ensure that we can get superfast speeds to all. This will include areas not yet reached, as well as those who are part of the network already but currently too far from the current cabinets to have achieved superfast speeds.”
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “Bringing fibre broadband to the Highlands and Islands has been a huge challenge for our engineers on a par with building a new Forth Bridge or Borders Rail Link. It’s great that high take-up levels in many areas are triggering further investment to extend the rollout.
“With a responsibility to deliver value for money, the programme has focused on bringing high-speed broadband to the most people possible with the funds currently available.
“We share and support our partners’ ambition to go further, and we’ll continue to work closely with HIE to identify opportunities to surpass the 6,000 extra premises we now aim to include during 2017. We’ve already seen many engineering innovations in this mammoth project, and there is more to come.”
The Scottish Government has committed to 100% superfast coverage by 2021. Digital Scotland partners are already looking at how this can be delivered.
An Open Market Review later this year will look at what commercial plans there are over the next three years, this will help identify a revised ‘intervention’ area. This will inform any Government decision on how a future project for Scotland could be progressed, including the procurement process. Some initial funding has been committed.