By Steve McCaskill
The government-funded rollout of superfast broadband in Scotland is to connect a further 20,000 homes in 40 rural and remote communities as the latest phase of the public-private Digital Scotland initiative.
The £410m partnership, funded by Broadband Delivery (BDUK), the Scottish Government, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and BT, compromises two separate projects—one covering the Highlands and Islands and the other covering the rest of Scotland.
Areas in 16 local authorities will be connected at the start of next year, helping Digital Scotland reach its target of covering 750,000 properties by the end of March 2018. So far, more than 455,000 homes and businesses have been reached.
"The roll-out of high-speed broadband has now reached 455,000 homes and business, with on average 7,000 more able to connect each week," said Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney. "Many of these were once thought to be out of reach because they're linked directly to telephone exchanges, or are located in more rural locations.
"Areas going to benefit from access to high speed broadband for the first time in the coming months include towns like Linlithgow and smaller villages such as Bridge of Dun."
Fiber coverage will also be expanded in five areas BDUK has already reached. The Scottish government is one of a number of authorities to receive funding back from BT after future adoption rates of fiber exceeded those of the firm's original business case. Holyrood has also launched a £9 million fund for community broadband projects.
"It's fantastic that our engineers are now reaching into some very small, rural communities, which have so much to gain," added Brendan Dick. "From this point on, our roll-out becomes increasingly challenging. We'd like communities to be aware this means our plans may sometimes have to change, but we'll continue to work hard to maintain the great progress to date and bring fast fiber to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible."
A full list of the areas can be viewed here.