Lerwick has been chosen as the first island community in the country to be offered fibre broadband as part of a £410 million partnership.
The town joins Keith in Moray as the latest areas to be announced as part of the Digital Highlands and Islands project.
Homes and businesses could qualify for the initiative, which aims to deliver fibre broadband to 84 per cent of premises across the Highlands and Islands by 2016.
It should see fibre broadband services offering speeds of up to 80Mbps roll out in the autumn, as BT engineers deploy the technology.
In total, more than three quarters of a million homes and business premises across the country are expected to benefit from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative. In the Highlands and Islands, the £146m project is led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and funding partners include the Scottish government, HIE, and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). BT, the selected private sector partner who is rolling out the open access fibre network, is investing heavily in the area to the tune of £19 million.
Managing director of digital marketing agency NB Communication, David Nicol, welcomed today’s announcement. But he said more details were needed.
“It could be very useful. We communicate with clients and suppliers all round the world all the time.
“Things are always changing and we need to keep up with new developments and it’s essential we have these fast speeds.
“The connection speed we already have suffices for what we need to do today, but it’s not enough for what we’ll be doing one, two, five years into the future. So it’s good to see them making this possible.”
“It sounds good on the face of it but the question is how do we actually get this, What does it mean in practice for both businesses and residential premises?”
Stuart Robertson, HIE’s Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said: “The project is working hard to rollout fibre broadband to our other island communities as soon as possible, too. Major infrastructure work is scheduled to begin in the summer on the UK’s biggest sub-sea cabling project. It’s a mammoth and unprecedented undertaking – with 20 crossings in locations including Islay, Mull, Stornoway and South Uist.”
The partnership programme is in addition to BT’s £2.5b UK commercial rollout, which seeks to bring faster fibre broadband within reach of more than 1.4 million Scottish homes and businesses.
BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: “Today marks an important next phase in our deployment, with the first island community now set to connect to fibre broadband several months ahead of schedule. This technological sea change will help island locations such as Lerwick to compete and thrive in the 21st century.
“New locations for fibre will be announced regularly as our engineers carry out detailed local surveys and finalise plans. Delivering a project on this scale is one of the most significant challenges we’ve faced anywhere in the UK in recent years, with our sub-sea cable laying programme set to break records later this year. It’s great to see this major step forward today, which will benefit rural communities on and off the Scottish mainland.”