Climbing to new heights of connectivity
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Residents in a picturesque Lochaber village are celebrating climbing to new heights of connectivity with the arrival of superfast broadband for Kinlochleven. The latest broadband boost takes the total number of premises with access to the new fibre networks in the Highlands and Islands to more than 100,000.
Community representatives joined Digital Scotland partners at one of the top visitor attractions in the region, Ice Factor Kinlochleven on Tuesday June 2 to mark the milestone.
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project is being led in the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with work on the ground being carried out by Openreach, the local network division of private sector partners BT. Funding is coming from the Scottish Government and the UK Government as well as HIE and BT.
The 100,000 figure, which is more than a third of the region’s premises, reflects the numbers now able to access fibre networks both through the Digital Scotland investment and BT’s commercial roll-out.
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said: “Each month we see the number of rural communities with access to better broadband increasing. The roll-out of the massive fibre optic network being built across the Highlands and Islands is one of the most ambitious broadband projects ever undertaken.
“The introduction of superfast broadband is already making a difference to rural communities, as demonstrated here in Kinlochleven and other parts of Lochaber. This latest milestone in coverage marks another step forward in the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver world class connectivity in Scotland by 2020.”
Other locations in the Lochaber area where the first customers can currently order fibre based services include Spean Bridge, Fort William, and Corpach. Initial services in Ballachulish have also gone live this week and Onich is expected soon.
Roll-out will continue in these areas in the coming months and will reach others as part of this phase until the end of 2016, ultimately covering 84% of the region’s premises.
Carroll Buxton, HIE’s Director of Regional Development, said: “Kinlochleven is a Highland village with a remarkable history, in a stunning rural location and the community has a real shared ambition for business and community development. The investment to build brand new fibre optic networks right across the region will reach many rural communities which, like Kinlochleven, would not have been reached by the market. Bringing better broadband closer opens up new opportunities for the way people live and work in our communities.”
Entrepreneur and mountaineer Jamie Smith is one of the businessmen interested in making the most of better broadband. Owner of Snow Factor International, in 2003 he established Ice Factor Kinlochleven, the world’s largest indoor ice-climbing facility. It annually attracts over 130,000 visitors who come to learn and practise ice climbing and mountaineering skills.
Mr Smith commented: “As the owner of Ice Factor Kinlochleven, the National Centre for Ice Climbing and a major adventure tourism attraction in the Highlands and Islands, I am very pleased to see high speed broadband arrive in Kinlochleven. Throughout the year we attract visitors from both home and abroad who wish to experience the thrill and fun of ice-climbing and mountain-sport.
“As a business, our online presence, including the website and our social media platforms are vital for Ice Factor Kinlochleven to actively reach out and engage both current and future customers. It’s a great way of sharing all the great reasons to visit Kinlochleven, whatever the time of year and weather.”
As part of the event today HIE, BT and charity Citizens Online also met with local businesses, residents, and pupils from Kinlochleven High School and Primary School at the community owned Leven Centre to outline what the new network meant for the village. As well as the roll-out HIE also supports a number of initiatives to help people make better use of the internet, supported by the European Regional Development Fund.
The youngsters visited the green street cabinet in the village which houses the fibre. The broadband runs from there on existing copper lines to people’s premises, and depending on the distance of the house from the cabinet download speeds can be up to 80Mbps*.
Faster speeds makes it easier for people to access the internet, download and share large files, and use online software even when there are a few people in the household using it at once.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland Director, said: “Wiring up the Highlands and Islands for fibre is the biggest challenge our engineers face in the whole of the UK. So today is a real landmark. It’s amazing to think that more than 100,000 households and business premises can now connect to high-speed internet – around double the number we expected to reach in the Highlands and Islands with our commercial roll-out.
“We’re proud to be partners in this project, which is all about delivering a real and lasting digital future for our rural communities. Many of them are going from a current max of 8Mbps to up to 80Mbps. I hope the people of Kinlochleven and all the other places which can now get connected will give fibre broadband a go – they’ll never look back.”
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The UK Government’s nationwide rollout of superfast broadband continues at pace and it’s fantastic to see the huge progress made in Scotland to date. Every day we are reaching another 5000 homes and businesses across the UK and I’m delighted that the residents and businesses of Kinlochleven can now benefit from all that superfast speed has to offer.”
Customers can check availability of services and progress on roll-out for all areas of Scotland on the Digital Scotland interactive checker www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen When available you won’t be upgraded automatically, you have to speak to an Internet Service Provider to order.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is an economic and community development agency delivering the Scottish Government’s economic strategy across a region which covers more than half of Scotland.
HIE, as part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, is leading on one of the most complex fibre broadband deployment projects in the UK. We aim to deliver services to 84% of premises across the Highlands and Islands by 2016, and are working to find ways to reach the remaining 16%. As part of that we manage Community Broadband Scotland which works with communities across Scotland to help them find sustainable ways to get faster broadband.
Equally important is our work to provide specialist online and face-to-face support for businesses and communities to help them maximise the benefits of digital connectivity.
You can visit our website at http://www.hie.co.uk follow us on Twitter @HIEScotland and @HIEdigital Also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/highlandsandislandsenterprise
BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of five customer-facing lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, BT Wholesale and Openreach.
For the year ended 31 March 2015, BT Group’s reported revenue was £17,979m with reported profit before taxation of £2,645m.
British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.
For more information, visit www.btplc.com.
Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:
• £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
• £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
• £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services
Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.