Island and mainland communities on Scotland’s west coast are to have their broadband boosted as part of a “pioneering project”.
Eight areas that have been among some of the hardest to reach in Scotland are working together as part of the community-led initiative which could see broadband speeds increase from less than two megabits per second (Mbps) to up to 50 Mbps in parts of Argyll.
Communities in Colonsay, Iona, Jura, Lismore, Islay, Luing and the peninsula of Craignish are working together in the GigaPlus Argyll scheme.
It is part of the Scottish Government’s community broadband Scotland (CBS) scheme, which aims to help people in the hardest-to-reach areas get better connected.
Derek Mackay, the minister for transport and islands, said: “This is a pioneering project overcoming significant geographical, engineering and commercial challenges to bring superfast broadband to homes and businesses not only scattered across communities, but in this case, across islands.
“Every day we are building on the growing broadband infrastructure, reaching further into our rural and remote areas.
“Every forward step supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver first-rate connectivity in Scotland by 2020, ensuring we are a world world-class digital nation.”
GigaPlus Argyll is working with Lincoln-based AB Internet in what is a community/private sector partnership.
Work to improve broadband connections will be done on a phased basis, with the south of Mull and Lismore likely to be the first to benefit, followed by Luing and the northern end of Jura.
From these key locations, the deployment will spread north-west across Mull, south through Colonsay, the Craignish peninsula and parts of Jura, to the Loch Gruinart area to the west of Islay, and to Ulva and Iona, with the project expected to be completed by June next year.
CBS director Mark Tate said: “This project is truly ground-breaking in the way it brings together the community, the private sector and public sector advice, support and funding to deliver a robust and sustainable next generation solution.
“The service will be delivered over a community-owned infrastructure that will be operated by a commercial internet service provider on a fixed-term contract/lease with local labour.”
Darren Round, of AB Internet, said: “Regardless of how you look at it, from the technical platform to the commercial model, or the community involvement to the headline user speeds, this is a ground-breaking project.”