High-speed fibre broadband is available to more than 2,700 homes and businesses in Rothesay and Ardbeg as of this week.
The access is being provided through seven green fibre cabinets - six in Rothesay and one in Ardbeg, all installed over the last few months and located next to existing telecoms cabinets.
The £146m project is being led in the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with work on the ground being carried out by Openreach, the local network division of private sector partners BT. Funding is coming from the Scottish Government and the UK Government as well as HIE and BT.
Rothesay was originally in line to receive the fibre upgrade in the first half of 2016, but the Scottish Government announced in February that the availability date would be brought forward to this summer.
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said: “We are changing the shape of access to better broadband for our rural and island communities. The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project is making high speed services available to thousands of people every week in places which would not have been reached through the market.
“It’s fantastic to see the first homes and businesses now able to order in Rothesay. It’s another step in building the infrastructure which will see us fulfil the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver world class connectivity in Scotland by 2020.”
HIE’s Director of Digital, Stuart Robertson, highlighted that where new services are available customers won’t be automatically upgraded: “Fibre is an entirely different service so if it’s available you have to order. You can look on our online checker www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen and then speak to your internet service provider to get connected.”
Further coverage will follow over the next few months.
“Openreach engineers will be back in the area soon to roll out services to more people,” Mr Robertson continued.
“This will include creating brand new networks to connect hundreds of premises which currently get their telecoms direct from the exchange, known as ‘Exchange Only’ lines. This includes many premises in the town centre.”
It takes a little longer to deliver to Exchange Only lines as it is a more complicated process, involving re-routing lines and building new cabinets. It is hoped the first of these upgrades will come through during autumn this year.
Additional roll-out is planned during 2015 for the north of Bute, including at Craigmore where first services will be available soon. Roll-out will continue into 2016 at Kilchattan Bay.
BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: “As part of BT’s most complex subsea fibre deployment in UK waters, two subsea links between Bute and Cowal and between Bute and Cumbrae have helped to bring fibre broadband to Rothesay. Engineers have laid more than 250 miles of subsea cable around Scotland’s shores which, along with the newly installed street cabinets and underground cable around Rothesay, completes the fibre jigsaw.
“While the steamships brought economic prosperity to places like Bute, fibre broadband will equally bring another revolution in working life to Argyll and Bute, with access to the latest technologies such as video conferencing, faster file sharing and cloud-based services. Our engineers will continue to use the latest technologies to spread the benefits of fibre broadband across Scotland.”
Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey MP said: “This is fantastic news for the 2,700 homes and businesses in Rothesay who can now access superfast speeds now that our rollout has reached the Isle of Bute. The UK Government is investing £120m to rollout superfast broadband across Scotland and we are on track to cover 95 per cent of the UK by 2017.”