Almost £18 million is being made available by BT to accelerate high speed broadband in Scotland’s rural communities, though it is unclear how much of that money will come to Shetland.
The Scottish government said the benefit comes from the success of the government-backed £410 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, which has reached 365,000 homes and businesses from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway.
The programme pulls together public and BT funding to provide fibre broadband to areas “that would not be reached by commercial investment alone”.
The government said it will result in 85 per cent of premises in Scotland with access to high-speed fibre broadband by the end of March 2016 and 95 per cent by the end of 2017.
“The contract between the Scottish government, BT and Highlands and Islands Enterprise included a “gain share” clause to claw back funding if the project reached agreed take up levels, which it is on track to exceed.”
Deputy first minister John Swinney this week said the government was working with BT to ensure investment in the DSSB programme extended coverage as far as possible, while at the same time getting clarity on which areas would not be reached.
“This will allow these communities to work with Community Broadband Scotland to explore alternative solutions in parallel with DSSB roll-out,” said Mr Swinney.
Community Broadband Scotland is a partnership between the Scottish government, Highlands and Islands and Enterprise, and various others to help communities unlikely to be reached by the DSSB roll-out.
HIE’s director of digital, Stuart Robertson said: “Superfast broadband is now available to more than 60 additional rural towns and villages in the Highlands and Islands.
“We’re delighted people have been quick to embrace the benefits. It’s great news that take-up in our first communities is directly helping us to bring better broadband to even more people.”
Following the news Isles MSP Tavish Scott said he wanted more coverage for Shetland. “Any new money for superfast broadband must be targeted at those areas where the service hardly exists,” he said.
“There are a number of areas across Shetland such as the north isles where there is no date yet from the Scottish government for any investment. People will expect an immediate indication of which areas will now see an upgrade to their service and that would be very welcome.”
HIE said it did not know yet how much of the extra money Shetland would be receiving and was awaiting more information from BT.
BT said the issue was still to be discussed.