Thousands of previously inaccessible north and north-east homes and businesses will soon have access to full fibre broadband under new plans.
Towns and villages in Aberdeenshire such as Ellon, Inverurie, Stonehaven, Cowie, Banff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead are among 60 locations across Scotland to be upgraded by Openreach over the next 12-18 months.
Aviemore and Thurso are also part of the “rural rollout”, while the Moray communities of Elgin, Buckie, Lossiemouth, Findochty, Buckpool and Forres will all benefit.
The Scottish Government welcomed the efforts to bring ultra-reliable and gigabit-capable full fibre broadband to “harder to reach” places.
Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish connectivity minister, said: “Digital connectivity has played a vital role in supporting our efforts to keep people safe and connected during lockdown and will play a pivotal role in plans for our strategic economic recovery from the pandemic, maintaining jobs and livelihoods and creating new skills and opportunities.
“Commercial developments like these all play their part in giving Scotland access to superfast broadband and complement the work the Scottish Government is doing in the Reaching 100% Programme to deliver superfast access for all.”
The north and north-east rollout is part of a £12 billion investment plan to make the technology available to 3.2 million premises and homes in isolated locations across the UK.
Openreach said it aims to have the infrastructure available to 20 million premises by the mid-to-late 2020s.
Gill Neil, chief executive of Elgin Bid, believes the rollout is a positive step for Moray.
She said: “We welcome this announcement as connectivity is critical to businesses, more so now that ever as people are implementing new ways of working.
“While it is going to take a while for the rollout to be completed, it is wonderful news it is on the way and I know will be greatly anticipated by not only the businesses but the general public.”
Openreach’s partnership director for Scotland, Robert Thorburn, believes the newly available technology will help aid the UK’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “We’ve already upgraded hundreds of thousands of homes and business across Scotland to full fibre.
“As well as keeping the existing network running throughout the Covid-19 crisis, our engineers have, safely and with social distancing in place, continued building the new infrastructure to make sure that as lockdown restrictions ease, our network is there to support families, businesses and the economic recovery.
“Many Scottish households and businesses can already switch to the new technology – which we’ve already started to build in Aberdeen – and hundreds of thousands more will follow in the months and years ahead, including harder-to-reach communities in Aberdeenshire.”
A report commissioned by Openreach last year claimed full connectivity across Scotland by 2025 could bring 37,400 people back into the country’s workforce, while offering a £5.5 billion boost to the nation’s economy.
Openreach chief executive officer Clive Selley added: “We are determined to find inventive engineering solutions and effective partnership funding models to reduce costs and enable us to connect as many communities as possible across the UK without public subsidy.
“Openreach is leading the charge to help the UK Government achieve its target of making gigabit capable networks available nationwide by 2025.
“And we hope that by publishing our own plans, we can help ensure that taxpayers only fund connections in communities that really need public support.”