Work has begun on connecting thousands of homes and businesses on Scotland’s islands to faster, more reliable broadband.
The first of 16 cables are being installed under the seabed surrounding Shetland as part of the £384 million Reaching 100% (R100) North contract, delivered by Openreach.
Fifteen islands in the Argyll and Bute, Highland, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands council areas are set to benefit from broadband capable of one-gigabit-per-second download speeds under the programme.
Work in the current stage is expected to be completed by September.
Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “This installation work demonstrates our commitment to extending access to faster broadband to all areas of Scotland.
“Once connected, future-proofed broadband will make it easier for islanders to keep in touch, work remotely and access services online. It will also benefit visitors and promote greater regional business productivity in line with our National Strategy for Economic Transformation.
“Scotland has some of the most challenging locations anywhere in Europe for providing telecommunications infrastructure, yet we are determined to deliver access to fibre broadband to every premises in the country.
“The laying of subsea cables to 15 islands across the Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Shetland and Orkney represents welcome progress to achieving our ambition.”
Fraser Rowberry, chief engineer for Scotland at Openreach, added: “We’re excited to see this mammoth subsea build get started after months of in-depth planning. Laying cables on the seabed is incredibly complex, with lots of environmental, engineering and logistical challenges.
“This is the first step in a technological sea change for some of our most remote island communities.
“Residents and visitors will see activity in the waters around Shetland, Orkney and the west coast as work progresses this summer.
“Work on new landing points on the islands – which will link the new, subsea cables into the wider broadband network – is also progressing.
“Together, these elements lay a crucial foundation for the islands’ future connectivity.”