Argyll and Bute lags behind in fibre broadband service

New figures from Highlands and Islands Enterprise state that 43 per cent of premises in Argyll and Bute are now able to get access to high-speed fibre broadband services.
New figures from Highlands and Islands Enterprise state that 43 per cent of premises in Argyll and Bute are now able to get access to high-speed fibre broadband services.

Access to next generation broadband is better in Argyll and Bute than it was at the start of 2015 - but the area is still lagging behind the Highlands and Islands as a whole.

According to new figures published by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, more than 21,000 premises in Argyll and Bute are now able to access high speed fibre-ased services.

That’s a coverage rate of 43 per cent, way behind the figure of 60 per cent for the entire Highlands and Islands area.

HIE has, however, insisted that its Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, a partnership between the enterprise company, BT and the Scottish and UK governments, is on schedule, and that by the end of 2016 84 per cent will have access to the fibre network.

The Argyll and Bute figure also includes the commercial roll-out by BT Openreach to parts of Dunoon, Helensburgh and Oban.

High-speed fibre services in Rothesay were made available in July of this year, and the Kingarth and Kilchattan Bay areas will follow in 2016, though there is no exact date yet for when the service will go live at the south end of the island.

A community-based solution is being explored to cover homes and businesses on Bute outwith the Rothesay and Kilchattan Bay coverage area - mostly in the more remote north and west of the island - and also in Colintraive, Glendaruel and Tighnabruaich.

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s director of digital, said: “We are fast approaching the end of the second year of our initial three year project. We’re on target to bring the option of faster broadband to more than 8 out of 10 of the region’s homes and businesses before the end of 2016.

“For those in the 100 towns and villages where there’s coverage we’d urge you to check availability. You aren’t automatically upgraded from your existing ADSL’ broadband – and it’s definitely worth finding out of you could get a faster service for much the same money.

“For those we haven’t reached yet, we’re still working hard to get to as many people as we can. Our target with the current budget was to get to at least 70 per cent of premises in every of our local authority areas. That isn’t easy, and 2016 is set to be challenging as we try to reach ever smaller communities of people.

“While we won’t reach everyone in phase one the Digital Scotland partners, the local authorities and our colleagues at Community Broadband Scotland are already looking at the options to reach even further.

“We know how badly people want to find a solution to better broadband and as the gaps get smaller we are in a better place to help communities look at the best long term options within the technologies available.”

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “This milestone is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved and brings many benefits to communities across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.”