10,000 Caithness homes and businesses have access to new broadband networks

New locations announced as three million UK superfast broadband milestone is reached

More than 10,000 homes and businesses in Caithness can now access next generation fibre broadband through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) roll-out.

Work is to start during the next six months to make fibre broadband available to nearly 900 more premises in the far north as building work on the roll-out continues.

In addition, following a re-modelling of the roll-out plans, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is confirming that the village of John O’Groats, which had been under evaluation, will see some fibre broadband installed in the 2016 programme.

Over the next six months the villages of Bettyhill, Dunbeath, Keiss, Melvich and Reay are set to see local fibre broadband networks built to give many premises a boost in speeds.They join areas where fibre based broadband is already available to order at Castletown, Halkirk, Lybster, Thrumster, Thurso and Wick. The building work announced three months ago in Watten continues.

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, led in the region by HIE, is bringing better broadband to thousands of homes and businesses which could not be reached by the private sector’s commercial rollout.

The Caithness 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.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The roll-out of high-speed broadband in the far north of mainland Scotland is gathering momentum, and it’s great to see this important milestone passed, and that new villages will be able to access services soon.

“Access to next generation broadband will be of huge benefit to the homes and businesses in these areas, and indicates the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensuring we have the first-rate digital infrastructure we need to be a world class digital nation by 2020.”

Fibre broadband is a completely new service and customers do have to order it when it’s available.

HIE’s Director of Digital, Stuart Robertson, said: “There are good levels of coverage now in both Wick and Thurso. This includes the introduction of new fibre broadband cabinets created for the many businesses and customers in the town centres who were previously connected directly to the exchange.

“The roll-out does come in stages depending on the existing network, and we will see fibre broadband made more widely available in some of the places which are already ‘live’ such as Wick, Thurso and also in Lybster.

“We are delighted that ongoing modelling work has allowed us to look at how we can draw the village of John O’Groats into the programme. We’ll carry out further local surveys when we start work in the area next year to maximise the numbers of premises reached.”

The announcement comes on the same day as the UK Government announced the UK-wide 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.

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 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."

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. Coupled with our commercial upgrades it means more than 1.7 million Scottish homes and businesses can now choose to connect with much higher speeds.

“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 Dallas 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.”


Notes to editor

New areas where build is starting within the next six months:

Fort AugustusHighland
Mallaig MorarHighland
BressayShetland Islands
HillswickShetland Islands

New areas were work is starting are announced every three months throughout the three year project.A full list of areas where work has started or is live is available on www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen and there is also a postcode checker where people can check their own telephone or postcode details for an idea of progress.

When connected to Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology households and businesses could have direct access to download speeds of up to 80 Mbps. These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. Speeds will also vary from customer to customer depending on the distance from the cabinet.

Due to the current network topography, and the economics of deployment, all premises within selected exchange areas will not be able to access fibre-based broadband. Openreach is considering alternative solutions for these locations, which may also benefit from future partnership activity.