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Paul Wheelhouse MSP visits the Scottish Borders to celebrate new fibre connection

Press release   •   Apr 16, 2019 14:16 BST

Openreach engineers, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Fiona Muir, Senior Stakeholder Manager, BDUK and Robert Thorburn, Partnership Director, Openreach

Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, joined the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband team to celebrate the latest fibre broadband in the Whitsome area.

Mr Wheelhouse took a look at the latest, full fibre technology now available to some rural properties at Whitsomehill Farm through the Digital Scotland rollout.

Openreach engineers showed him a new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network which provides ultrafast* broadband directly into local homes.

Thanks to the programme, almost 200 premises in Whitsome and the surrounding areas can now access fibre-based broadband services*, including the Whitsomehill Farm deployment of full fibre (FTTP).

They are among more than 37,000 homes and businesses across the Scottish Borders now able to connect to the Digital Scotland network, with recent upgrades in places like Heriot, Camptown and Coldingham.

So far, more than 95% fibre-based broadband coverage has been achieved in Scotland across all networks, with nearly 930,000 households and businesses now able to connect through the Digital Scotland rollout. Work is ongoing, with Openreach engineers continuing work on the ground throughout 2019.

Without the Digital Scotland programme, only 66% of premises would have received a broadband upgrade from commercial companies.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “As a Berwickshire resident myself, I know just how important the rollout of superfast broadband is to local communities, like Whitsome, to support their own efforts to improve the lives of the people living here. It’s therefore tremendous news that more of our villages, just like Whitsome, have access to superfast broadband, which is vital if we’re to ensure access to new, digital services and to grow our rural economy.

“Where it’s the best solution, we are also using small deployments of fibre to the premises (FTTP) – the most up-to-date, future-proof fibre technology – which enables some residents in places like Whitsomehill Farm to access ultrafast speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second and I will be keen to see the benefits that this brings to customers.

“Accessing fibre broadband, at superfast speeds or better, could be truly transformative for both residents and business in rural and remote areas. We know it can help rural businesses to become more sustainable, for example providing farms with access to online systems to help day-to-day operations, and it can enable professional services and creative industries to operate here on a level playing field with their urban competitors. This is why we are committed to pursuing superfast broadband access for all business and residential premises across Scotland.”

Half the households reached by the Digital Scotland rollout have already upgraded to the fibre broadband services available. People need to sign up with an internet service provider, as upgrades are not automatic.

Web users can check the Digital Scotland website - scotlandsuperfast.com - to find out if they are able to access the latest fibre broadband technologies and see what’s happening locally.

Whether you own a business, work from home or want to keep in touch with friends and family, fibre broadband enables multiple users to connect to the internet at high speeds and get better, faster access to online services.

Robert Thorburn, Partnership Director for Openreach in Scotland, said: “The Digital Scotland project and our hard-working engineers continue to deliver more coverage across the country at faster speeds than expected.

“The latest upgrades in the Scottish Borders mean that some residents, like those here at Whitsomehill Farm, can already benefit from next-generation, full fibre broadband.

“We’re proud to be a partner in helping the Scottish Borders communities to reach their digital potential. We know there’s more to be done, and we’re committed to doing all we can with partners to bring better broadband to everyone.”

Sara Budge, Programme Director for Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband, said: “It’s fantastic news that the programme has been able to benefit residents and businesses in and around the Borders.

“More people than ever – nearly 930,000 homes and businesses - throughout Scotland are now able to access fibre broadband. With deployment throughout 2019, we aim to deliver on our promise to improve broadband access in hard-to-reach places. We look forward to connecting more people in communities like this one in the near future.”

Digital Scotland funding partners include the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, BT Group, the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), local authorities and the European Regional Development Fund.

Further information is available on Twitter @ScotSuperfast or Facebook at www.facebook.com/scotlandsuperfast.

ENDS

*The Digital Scotland programme has primarily deployed Fibre-to-the-Cabinet at speeds of up to 80Mbps, and also includes small deployments of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) where it’s the best technical solution. FTTP is capable of delivering the fastest residential broadband speeds in the UK – up to 1Gbps – fast enough to download a two hour HD movie in 25 seconds or a 45-minute HD TV programme in just five seconds. These are the top wholesale speeds available from Openreach to service providers; speeds offered by service providers may vary.

Notes to editors:

Due to the current network topography and the economics of deployment, it is likely that not all premises within selected areas will be able to access fibre-based broadband at the same point in the roll-out.

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme aims to provide fibre broadband infrastructure to parts of Scotland not included in commercial providers’ investment plans, and has reached around 95 per cent of premises when combined with current commercial roll-out plans.

www.scotlandsuperfast.com.

About BDUK

Superfast Britain is a UK Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:

£780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017

£150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities

£150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services

Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.

For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

About Openreach

Openreach is Britain’s digital network business.

We’re 30,400 people who connect homes, mobile phone masts, schools, shops, banks, hospitals, libraries, broadcasters, governments and businesses - large and small - to the world.

Our mission is to build the best possible network, with the highest quality service, making sure that everyone in Britain can be connected.

We work on behalf of more than 600 communications providers like SKY, TalkTalk, Vodafone, and BT, and our fibre broadband network is the biggest in the UK, passing more than 27 million premises. We’re also the platform for Britain’s thriving digital economy, which is the largest in the G20.

We’re working hard to give people the speeds they need to run and enjoy their daily lives. Over the last decade, we’ve invested more than £11 billion into our network and we now manage more than 160 million kilometres of cable stretching from Scotland to Cornwall, from Wales to the east coast. And we’re continuing to take that network further - making superfast broadband speeds available to thousands more homes and businesses every week.

Openreach is a wholly owned and independently governed division of the BT Group, and it is a highly regulated business, with more than 90 per cent of our revenues generated from services that are regulated by Ofcom and any company can access our products under the same prices, terms and conditions.

For the year ended 31 March 2018, we reported revenues of £5.1bn.

For more information, visit openreach.co.uk