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Scottish Highlands Council to Set Out Plan for Improving Broadband

Monday, Aug 3rd, 2015 (11:42 am) - Score 622

The Highlands of Scotland, which are reflected by sparse populations living on rugged and often downright mountainous terrain, represent a very expensive challenge and a telecom operator’s worst nightmare. Never the less the Highlands Council are suggesting that they might have a solution.. maybe.

At present the £410m Digital Scotland project, specifically its Highlands and Islands division, has already committed £126.4 million from public funds and £19.4 million from BT (private investment) in order to roll-out “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services to 84% of local premises by the end of 2016.

But the coverage figure is still a long way short of the longer-term goal, which aims to ensure that everyone in the Highlands and Islands region is able to access broadband download speeds of at least 30Mbps by 2020.

Easier said than done and the current target is so low precisely because of the huge challenges and costs involved with expanding connectivity into such an area. Never the less the new Highlands Council leadership, which represents a minority independent administration after the last coalition split apart, has put faster broadband and tackling alcoholism at the top of its agenda.

Margaret Davidson, Leader of the Council, said:

We are committed to raising the profile of the Highlands to secure the very best outcomes for our communities. Improving connectivity will be a key priority for the next two years. Good broadband and mobile coverage are essential for communities to thrive, economically, educationally and socially.”

Apparently a new plan is being devised to help explain how all of this will be achieved and that strategy is due to be ratified during a special meeting on 13th August 2015, although Davidson admits that their options will be “constrained … by challenging financial times“; recent predictions of a £36m+ funding blackhole in the budget certainly won’t help.

At the same time it is known that the Broadband Delivery UK programme has committed another £20,990,000 to improve broadband in Scotland, which will be matched by funding from other sources. Some of that will no doubt be headed to the highlands, although so far Scotland has not proposed a new plan or put out a tender for suppliers (e.g. BT).

Meanwhile the recent experiences in other local authorities, such as Devon and Somerset where the council was unable to reach an extended coverage deal with BT (here), suggests that the highlands may need to consider a greater patchwork of alternative network solutions in order to reach the most premises. Even then we suspect that some will ultimately be left with Satellite or weak mobile reception as the only option.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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