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Community / New investment in R100 broadband scheme – but only 62 extra Shetland premises to benefit

THE SCOTTISH Government project to increase the availability of super fast broadband across the country is to be expanded after a funding boost.

The extension of the R100 scheme will cover an extra 1,488 premises in the north of Scotland.

But a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said only 62 of these are in Shetland. It means that the north R100 contract now includes a total of 2,429 Shetland premises.

However, Orkney stands to see an extra 1,000 premises covered through the extension, bringing the overall total to 3,326.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said it remains that “much more needs to be done more quickly” to get the isles connected.

The north contract – which also includes Argyll and Bute and the Outer Hebrides – is to receive a further £20.2 million from the Scottish Government, as well as £9.4 million from the UK Government.

BT, which is carrying out the R100 work through Openreach, is also providing £800,000. The north contract extension work is only expected to be completed by March 2028. 

The contract for the south of Scotland is also being extended, covering an additional 1,149 properties. It means the total new investment in both the north and south is £36 million.

Despite the intention of R100 being to bring superfast broadband to every property in Scotland, some parts of Shetland will be missed out when it comes to fibre cables.

To compensate a voucher scheme was launched offering financial assistance worth up to £5,000 in alternative methods like satellite broadband or 4G mobile technology.

The Scottish Government said the new extensions will allow people to access “gigabit-capable connections” 30 times faster than the original R100 commitment.

Scottish business minister Ivan McKee said: “This latest investment will connect more homes and businesses in Scotland’s rural and island communities to gigabit capable broadband.

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“That will have far reaching economic, social and development impacts. Our R100 programme is going further, and providing faster broadband, than originally envisaged.

“This takes time and significant investment, but we are fully committed to ensuring that as many people as possible are able to enjoy the important advantages of this future-proofed digital infrastructure.”

But Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “It is quite a surprise that the Scottish Government has today announced this good news about extending the R100 broadband roll out while also junking their islands bond election bribe.

“I will be seeking further clarity from the Scottish Government on exactly what this means for Shetland and how many homes will get connected. But it still remains the case that much more needs to be done more quickly to get all island homes, businesses and services reliable broadband so that they are able to do the everyday things in life that now depend on internet access.

“I will also be asking what this means for those who have already taken up broadband vouchers only now to learn that they could be in line for connection under new plans.”

Digital infrastructure minister for the UK Government Matt Warman said “bringing lightning-fast and reliable broadband to hard-to-reach areas is at the heart of the UK Government’s mission to level up communities”.

Meanwhile Openreach’s Scotland partnership director Robert Thorburn said: “Connecting these properties one by one is one of the biggest broadband challenges in Europe.

“To make the most efficient use of resources, we’ll align the R100 build with our own rural investment. This will help us to get engineers and equipment to the most remote places, where they’re needed. We’ll continue to explore every option to reach more rural homes, faster.”

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