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Ultrafast Broadband Network Goes Live in Remote Highland Communities

Dominique Adams

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Achnasheen FTTP1

Residents in far-flung areas of the Highlands are now able to order ultrafast broadband services as a new full-fibre network goes live.

The communities, which are scattered across 26 miles of rough terrain, are set to gain access to the UK’s fastest and reliable broadband. An estimated 140 homes spanning from Achnasheen to Aultguish in Ross-shire – roughly 20 miles north-west of Inverness- should be able to enjoy ultrafast broadband by the end of the year. The network, which went live this week has brought broadband services to around 90% of premises in Achnasheen.

Almost two thirds of the residences will also receive future proof Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) from the £428 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, an initiative led by the Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) locally, with the rest getting a full-fibre upgrade through a Community Fibre Partnership with Openreach.

Thanks to the new network remote communities such as Achanalt, Lochluichart, Corriemoille, Little Garve, Gorstan, Grudie and Inchbae will see their broadband reliability, capacity and speeds increase from around 0.5Mbps to speeds of up to 1Gbps2,000 times faster than their current top speed.

Full-Fibre Upgrade Will Mean Greater Broadband Reliability

With greater reliability and resilience to the network, residents are less likely to be left without access to the internet in the event of extreme weather conditions or an unforeseen event. Local residents, who have welcomed the network, are currently in the process of digging in the last few metres of cable to more than 35% of the properties.

The roll-out, which is part of the UK Government’s Better Broadband scheme, is the result of research conducted by the voluntary group Garve and District Broadband (GDB). GDB concluded that in order to deliver better broadband a full-fibre network was the ideal solution to provide connectivity to these remote locations. Once the ultrafast network is completed the GDB and the Lochluichart Community Trust will consider the feasibility of extending the FTTP further.

Residents Hope Faster Connectivity Will Help Rejuvenate Communities

Community spokesman Steve Jones said: “It’s a tremendously exciting time. Like many residents I’ve only been getting very slow speeds capped at 0.5Mbps, making even the most basic of online activities difficult and frustrating, so I am looking forward to ultrafast speeds.

“Fast, reliable broadband will bring huge potential to regenerate our scattered communities. It’s a prerequisite for attracting families and businesses to the area, where the population has fallen in recent years.”

Those business owners and residents among the first to enjoy the new access said of the network that ultrafast broad band would boost not only their communities but also local businesses by allowing them to access and integrate computing software into their systems, thus enabling them to offer a wider range of services.

Stuart Robertson, Director of Digital at HIE, said: “This is an interesting example demonstrating how the expanding fibre network being delivered through the Digital Scotland project in rural areas can be built upon to reach even further. By working together, the Achnasheen community and the Community Fibre Partnership are extending the coverage and benefits of fibre broadband to some of the area’s remotest premises.”

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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