Poor broadband connections in rural Scotland is seeing people move out of rural areas to try and get better and faster broadband connections.
In a Rural Affairs Committee meeting the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment in the Scottish Government, Richard Lochhead, said:
“While you have traditional conversations about people leaving rural communities due to lack of access to higher education, affordable housing or employment, now there is an added factor where there is not good connectivity that can also lead to rural depopulation.”
The Highlands and Islands Enterprise is expecting to achieve 84% broadband coverage by 2016 but to extend this to even more places then more funding will be required.
For Scotland as a whole it is expected that BT is going to achieve around 95% coverage based on what they have achieved in Cornwall and elsewhere, however it is still going to be the Highlands and Islands which are going to be the struggle due to how remote they are.
BT is set to invest £8 million in a fibre broadband link between Inverness to Orkney and Shetland.
Currently the islands of Orkney and Shetland can only receive broadband speeds of less than 10Mb, with this new fibre broadband link from the mainland it will see the broadband speeds more than double the fastest current speed up to 20Mb.
Around 1,000 km of fibre optic cable will be used with 400 km of it being laid under the sea, due to the length of it and its hard to reach for maintenance it has required a bespoke design to help with remote maintenance.
Although the connection is a fibre optic line that will run from Inverness to Shetland and Orkney, it will be still via copper lines that the broadband will be delivered. It is thought that BT will upgrade the main areas to ADSL2+ in Spring next year to help deliver the faster broadband speeds to the islanders.
Currently the islanders use microwave radio links and these will be kept in place as a back up.
The Highlands and Islands region of Scotland sees just BT left for the contract to deliver broadband to the region.
Both Cable & Wireless and Fujitsu have both pulled out of the bidding process to bring super fast broadband to the Highlands and Islands. The area was one of 4 rural areas in the country that is to receive between £5-£10m of funding to help roll out a pilot of fibre broadband to the area, however, Fujitsu have withdrawn from the process as they claim that additional investment would be required for the required infrastructure and Cable & Wireless have also followed suit, this just leaves BT left in for the project.
Rhonda Grant, the Labour MSP for the Highlands & Islands, said:
“This pilot is of vital importance to every community throughout the Highlands and Islands and it is essential that more public money is invested in this project – so far only 10 per cent of the estimated costs have been secured.”
Alex Neil, the Scottish cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment has previously estimated that the cost of rolling out next generation broadband across the Highlands & Islands region would be in the region of £300m alone.
A delayed £70 million project to provide high speed broadband to schools and libraries across the Scottish Highlands has finally been completed.
The project was called the Pathfinder North Broadband Project which finally went live on Wednesday uses both fibre optic cables and broadband wireless technology to get the high speed Internet to all the schools, libraries and other council buildings, of which there is a total of 801 connected.
Five local authorities were involved in the project, which included The Highland Council and Moray, Argyll and Bute Councils and Orkney and Shetland Islands Councils.
The Chairman of The Highland Council’s Resources Committee, Councillor Carolyn Wilson said:
“The Pathfinder North scheme represents a major investment in rural locations, which depend so heavily on good communications. The provision of high-speed broadband services is great news both for our teams and the people they support, who have access to our community schools, libraries and offices. We are looking forward to using the network to the best of its capability, ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of all the communities we serve.“
The new network is not being shared to other people in the Highlands which means that broadband speeds of between 2Mb and 300Mb will be available to those on the new high speed broadband network.