Highlands and Islands superfast broadband rollout on course to begin in 2013

A planned rollout of superfast broadband across the whole of the Highlands and Islands is progressing according to plan, says the region’s development agency.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise posted an open tender invitation for a partner to co-invest in next generation broadband in June last year, attracting interest from four bidders.

Three of those companies – Cable and Wireless, Fujitsu, and Commendium – are no longer part of the process, and HIE is now negotiating with BT as the sole bidder.

The project aims to deliver access to superfast broadband across all areas of the Highlands and Islands over the coming years, with work starting in 2013.

Detailed costs and timescales for each phase of the project will be the subject of negotiation. However, HIE currently anticipates that total costs are likely to fall somewhere in a range between £200m and £300m.

Funding will come from both the private and public sectors, and is expected to include a contribution from the European Regional Development Fund.

Andrea Rutherford, HIE’s senior development manager for telecommunications, said: “This is a highly ambitious initiative, and the largest rural broadband project in the UK.

“It requires a technically proficient commercial partner to invest significantly in a superfast broadband infrastructure which will benefit businesses and communities across the Highlands and Islands.

“We are committed to providing best value for the public purse and to achieve this are working closely with the Scottish Government, BDUK, local partners and other superfast broadband projects.

“Broadband offers huge opportunities to rural areas in particular and we are determined to ensure that communities and businesses well beyond our main centres of population are able to benefit from access to high quality services.”

If negotiations are successful, HIE anticipates signing contracts by August 2012.