Over 1,000 homes and businesses in the Borders will be next to benefit from the arrival of high-speed fibre broadband, in the latest phase of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, as it starts to reach more rural and remote areas.
More than 455,000 homes and business are now able to connect to fibre broadband thanks to the partnership, and in addition to commercial deployments by the private sector.
The project is now reaching into more local areas, with places including Oxton, Reston, Roxburgh, Stichill, Westruther, Whitsome, Broughton and Skirling all set to receive fibre broadband fibre broadband for the first time.
The first connections are expected to go live in the Spring of next year, as engineers from BT’s local network business Openreach continue work on the ground.
Already hundreds of people across the Borders are benefitting from fibre broadband and one of them is Vivienne Seeley. She set up VivID, a graphic design consultancy, 15 years ago working from her home in St Boswells. The company designs brand identities, websites and other marketing material.
Viv said: “Fibre broadband has made a huge difference to me. I need to send large design files to clients and printers and in the past, this could take ages. The internet connection would often crash and I would need to start again, which was really frustrating. Now, files are sent instantly. I just don’t have to think about the technology any more, I can get on with my business.”
With her husband also working from home and two teenage children, Viv said that before they had a fibre connection, all four of them would compete for the available bandwidth.
“Our two businesses tended to come first, which meant that my sons were frustrated because they could not do what they wanted online such as play X-Box games or download videos. The delays caused tension in the household as we had to take turns to use the available bandwidth. So it is fantastic for us that now everyone can enjoy the same fast speeds regardless of how many people are online at the same time.”
Viv added: “Fibre broadband has made it so much easier to run a business from the family home. With fibre, we can all get on with what we want to do. It may be going a little far to say that fibre broadband has changed our lives, but it has certainly made life a lot easier and more productive for all the family. The icing on the cake is that the fibre connection is costing less than our previous slow broadband connection! We used to pay around £17 a month and now we just pay £10. It’s brilliant!”
Many of the latest homes and businesses will be served after additional engineering work on so-called ‘exchange only’ lines which run directly from the exchange to households and businesses – bypassing the usual road-side cabinets which are integral to the fibre rollout.
Engineers will rearrange the existing network and lay hundreds of metres of cable to reroute these lines through new road-side cabinets.
Fibre broadband enables multiple users in a home or business to access the internet, download and share large files at the same time at download speeds of up to 80 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20 Mbps. As the higher speeds become available, anyone interested in signing up for fibre-based services should contact their broadband service provider.
Sara Budge, Programme Director for Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband, said: “It is great to see smaller communities starting to benefit from our programme, while announcing that more exchanges will be included. The project is developing a high speed fibre network which is changing the face of broadband. By reaching out to those who would not have been covered through the commercial market – in towns and into some of our most rural villages like Skirling and Broughton – we are ensuring that the connections which are made will bring many benefits to the Scottish people at home and in business.”
The Digital Scotland rollout consists of two projects. One is led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for its region and the other covers the rest of Scotland.
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “The Digital Scotland rollout has now passed more than half the homes and business premises currently included in our plans and it’s fantastic that our engineers are now reaching into some very small, rural communities, which have so much to gain.
“From this point on, our roll-out becomes increasingly challenging. We’d like communities to be aware this means our plans may sometimes have to change, but we’ll continue to work hard to maintain the great progress to date and bring fast fibre to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
“BT is determined to make sure that Scotland remains at the forefront of the high-speed digital revolution. We’re proud to be working hand in hand with our partners to deliver a truly Digital Scotland. Everyone can keep up to speed with the latest developments at www.digitalscotland.org/whereandwhen .”
Councillor Stuart Bell, SBC’s Executive Member for Economic Development from Scottish Borders Council said: “I really am delighted to see that not only have more communities been announced – but importantly people like Viv are starting to sign up to fibre broadband. It’s great to see the investment of £8.4M that Scottish Borders Council made really start to benefit local residents.”