Wheels are in motion for faster broadband

FOUR settlements in the Western Isles are likely to be included in the high speed broadband pilot scheme announced by the UK government last year.

HIE successfully bid to carry out the project which is part-funded by the Government. They have been hoping to attract a commercial partner and the date for submission of tenders to them has now passed.

A spokesperson for HIE said: “Highlands and Islands Enterprise has been working with partners across the region to build on the opportunity offered by our successful bid to BDUK. HIE’s tender is aimed at attracting a commercial partner who will be able to deliver an approach which will take into account the needs of a wide range of communities. The technology used to roll out broadband, the speeds it will achieve and the dates of the various phases will all be dependent on who the successful bidder is, as well as on the challenges of securing additional investment as each phase progresses.”

The project is intended to help work towards the Scottish Government and Westminster’s aspirations for broadband.

These are: ‘Scottish Government Digital Ambition for Scotland’ says Next Generation Access available to all by 2020, with significant progress by 2015

The UK Government’s strategy ‘Britain’s Superfast Broadband Future’ aims for the UK to have the best next generation broadband network in Europe by 2015

The European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe has a target of broadband coverage at a speed of 30 Mbps (Megabits per second) to all by 2020.

The spokesperson added: “It is likely that the rollout phase to deliver these ambitions could take up to five to eight years. We have therefore suggested a list of 50 settlements that we would wish to see with access to next generation broadband within two years of the start of the rollout process. The 50 settlements are, at this stage, just a suggested list for the industry but do cover all parts of the Highlands and Islands and do cover a range of town/settlement sizes. For information, four of the 50 settlements being suggested are within the Western Isles.”

Meanwhile Ofcom say millions of homes and businesses in rural parts of the UK could receive better value broadband services by the end of this year. This follows their decision to reduce significantly the prices that BT Wholesale can charge internet service providers (ISPs) in primarily rural, less densely populated areas.

The price reduction will be 12 per cent below inflation per year and will apply to services provided using BT’s wholesale broadband network.

Ofcom expects these price cuts to generate more competition between retail ISPs and to lead to cheaper retail prices which will benefit consumers. The changes may also lead to better quality services by enabling ISPs to allocate more bandwidth per customer which could deliver faster broadband services.