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Half a million homes on digital network

Published: 4 Jan 2016 00:01

Infrastructure Secretary hails superfast start to 2016.

More than 500,000 Scottish homes and businesses can now connect to high-speed broadband.

The engineering milestone was passed as a new fibre cabinet in Gretna Green became the latest in the £410 million project to go live through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme – meaning the planned nationwide roll-out is now two thirds complete, with two years to go.

More than 2,200 new fibre street cabinets have been built, with the most northern serving 80 homes in Bod of Gremista, Shetland and the most southern covering 250 premises in Isle of Whithorn, Dumfries & Galloway. Openreach engineers have laid more than 5000KM of fibre cable which, laid end to end, would reach from Glasgow to New York.

Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown marked the landmark at Gretna's Famous Blacksmith Shop and restaurant, a wedding business already benefitting from fibre broadband.

Mr Brown said:

"The start of 2016 marks a real high point in our progress towards ensuring world-class digital connectivity for Scotland by 2020. Our fibre infrastructure is growing rapidly and on average each week the programme reaches another 7,000 premises.

"Today's milestone is fantastic news for the 500,000 households and businesses across Scotland which would simply not have seen the benefits of high speed, high quality digital connectivity without the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme. It is among the most ambitious broadband infrastructure projects ever undertaken."

The cabinet in Gretna Green is one of the last to go live in the historic village, where nearly one in four premises has already connected to the new high-speed network.

Lynda Denton, Head of Sales & Marketing at Gretna Green Ltd, said:

"Fibre broadband arriving to Gretna Green has really helped our business, we have over 850,000 visitors each year, including 1,500 couples who come here to marry in the historic Famous Blacksmiths Shop. Wifi being available is important, it provides our newlyweds and visitors, who come from all over the world, with the ability to share their photos and videos. It's a wonderful way for Gretna Green love to be shared with friends and family back home."

The Digital Scotland rollout consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area, led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and the other covering the rest of Scotland, led by the Scottish Government.

Other funding partners include the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), local authorities and the European Regional Development Fund. BT is investing £126 million in the two projects, which are being delivered on the ground by engineers from its local network business, Openreach.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said:

"We made good progress with the expansion of Scotland's fibre-based infrastructure in 2015, we've reached 500,000 premises with another 250,000 to be reached in the coming months.

"In total, more than 1.9 million Scottish premises can now get connected to high-speed broadband on our open network, with a wealth of choice in cost and services. Whatever you are doing online, you can do it better and faster with fibre.

"We're proud to be at the heart of digital life in Scotland and look forward to bringing high-speed services to some of our most remote communities in 2016."

Stuart Robertson, Director of Digital at HIE, said:

"Availability of fibre broadband for homes and businesses in the Highlands and Islands has grown by over 55 per cent since 2014 and is expected to reach at least 84 per cent by the end of this year.

"We're delighted that the partnership investment has brought better broadband to people in over 100 towns and villages previously missed. Every connection is vital to those living and working here and we're already looking at the options to reach even further."

The programme is due to pass 750,000 premises by the end of March 2018 and, alongside commercial investment in high-speed broadband, will mean around 95 per cent of all premises in Scotland will have access to services at speeds of up to 80Mbps*.

Notes to editors

Images of the Infrastructure Secretary at the Famous Blacksmith Shop and Restaurant are available for download at https://www.dropbox.com/home/Keith%20Brown%20MSP%20unveils%20Superfast%20Broadband%20for%20Gretna%20Green

Captions:- Images 13 – Newly married couple Tracy Martin and Stuart Murray from Bedfordshire, with Keith Brown MSP. Image 26 Keith Brown chats with head of sales and marketing Lynda Denton of Greens Ltd who have benefitted from fibre broadband thanks to the programme.

Images by Phil Wilkinson

The network includes more than 81,000 premises in Aberdeen city and shire; 70,700 in the South of Scotland; 34,500 in Fife, 18,300 in Perth and Kinross; 76,000 premises in Glasgow and the West; 102,000 in the Highlands and Islands and 19,800 in the Scottish Borders.

These are the top wholesale speeds available to all service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary. While many premises in enabled areas now have access to fibre broadband, some may not be able to connect due to network topography and other technological factors. To be sure that you can get fibre broadband, check with your internet service provider.