Work to bring superfast broadband to island communities will start in the New Year, the Scottish government has announced.
Connectivity Minister Paul Wheelhouse confirmed the significant step forward for the £600 million R100 programme on Monday.
The £384 million contract for the North of Scotland has been signed with BT, allowing work to move to the next stage.
Isles MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed the announcement.
“This is welcome news that brings some more certainty to the rollout of superfast broadband in Shetland,” she said.
“The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has made this digital divide all the more obvious. Lack of reliable internet access is hampering the ability for islanders to keep connected, whether for learning, socialising or accessing services.
“It’s now important that survey work happens swiftly so people know exactly when and how they can expect the be connected. There have been so many broken promises in the R100 saga that people deserve a realistic timescale.”
The Scottish Government’s R100 programme was supposed to deliver superfast broadband to every home and business by 2021.
However, the Edinburgh administration has been unable to deliver on the commitment.
Ms Wishart added: “A contract for Southern Scotland was signed last year and work there is not expected to be completed until summer 2024.
“We need to see drive to make sure work in the North Lot progresses quickly and efficiently so people in island communities aren’t left further behind.”