Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) says it is taking the first steps towards delivering superfast broadband for homes and businesses across the Highlands and Islands.
The agency, working in partnership on the project with the UK Government Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the Scottish Government and local authorities, has launched a procurement process to appoint a suitably experienced partner to co-invest in the provision of Next Generation Broadband (NGB) services throughout the region.
In October 2010, HIE successfully bid to be one of the initial four rural areas in the UK to receive a funding package from BDUK. The investment is targeted at exploring ways to bring the faster speeds currently being enjoyed primarily in some city locations to more rural areas.
Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE, said: “Good communication links are a cornerstone in growing attractive, sustainable communities in remote and rural areas. Having faster, reliable broadband links across the world brings with it a whole range of opportunities, both in delivering the services our communities need every day and in the ways we as a region can do business.”
The procurement will follow the European-wide OJEU Competitive Dialogue process and HIE expects to sign contracts by July 2012.
The multi-million pound project, which will be delivered in phases, will roll out next generation access to communities and businesses across the Highlands and Islands. Details of the plan will be determined through the procurement process, with confirmation expected shortly after the contract is awarded.
Mr Paterson commented: “Understandably, everyone wants to know if faster broadband capability will reach them. Our ultimate aim is for all our communities to benefit, throughout all parts of the Highlands and Islands. At this first stage we are committed to seeing a fair spread across the region. The winning tender will need to demonstrate the best options for value and reach.”
The procurement is part of a wider programme of activity which HIE is leading to maximise the benefits of improved digital connectivity - keeping our region globally accessible and our businesses highly competitive. The desired end results will be sustainable economic growth, improved delivery of public services and stronger communities.