Highlands & Islands

Fibre broadband boost for Moray Firth communities

Image caption The extra cash is aimed at helping superfast broadband reach rural parts of Scotland

Communities around Inverness and along the Moray Firth will be the first to benefit from publicly funded high-speed broadband.

More than £260m is being invested by the public sector and BT for fibre broadband in areas where it is not seen as commercially viable.

Milton of Leys, Lhanbryde, Ardersier, Buckie, Fortrose, Hopeman, Culloden and Lossiemouth will all benefit.

They will all have access to fibre broadband from early next year.

The high-speed network is seen as a key economic driver.

Without public sector support its estimated less than a quarter of Scotland's properties will be able to access fibre connections by 2016.

The deal should bring fibre capability to 600,000 Scottish homes and businesses, bringing together £158m of public funding and £106m from BT.

It is hoped that 85% of Scotland should have access to higher-speed broadband by the end of 2015, and 95% two years later.

Early priority will be given to rural small and medium-sized businesses to encourage economic growth in "hard-to-reach" areas.

Stuart Robertson, Highlands and Islands Enterprise's director of digital, said: "This first roll-out will be available to customers who are connected to a number of street cabinets within the eight exchange areas.

"Homes and businesses will be able to check availability over the coming weeks and there will be further work carried out in these areas to extend the reach as the roll-out progresses."

BT is to lay about 800km of fibre cable on land and a further 400km via 20 subsea crossings as part of the project.

Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said of the plan: "It is crucial if local businesses are to continue to thrive in a competitive environment."

The scheme is funded by the Scottish government, Broadband Delivery UK, HIE and BT, along with funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

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