L-R Andy Weir, owner of Ridelines, Sara Budge, programme director DSSB, Robert Thorburn, Openreach partnership director and Paul Wheelhouse, MSP minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands

MORE than 950,000 premises across Scotland are now able to connect to faster fibre broadband through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband infrastructure build.

The £463M partnership programme has reached the ‘amazing’ milestone as it starts to draw to a close in its seventh year of deployment. The total includes more than 110,000 extra premises which were not originally expected to benefit.

Across the country, Openreach engineers have laid a whopping 16,730KM of cable – enough to stretch to the South Pole and beyond  – including 400KM of sub-sea cable, while 5,078 new fibre street cabinets are now live.

Before DSSB began there were no plans for commercial fibre broadband rollout in Orkney, Shetland or the Western Isles – now more than 80%[1] of premises in these local authorities can access fibre.

To mark the achievement, connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse paid a physically distanced visit to Scottish Borders business Ridelines to hear how their superfast internet connection has helped them during lockdown.

The company, based in Innerleithen, provides mountain bike courses and tuition in the Tweed Valley hills and countryside.

Mr Wheelhouse, minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said: “Having fast and reliable internet is absolutely vital to communities across the country. As we emerge from lockdown, it helps businesses stay connected with customers and colleagues, as well as helping families to stay in touch, learn, work, play and shop – over 65% of people who have fibre available to them have already signed up to receive services and that is more than double the take up that had been modelled.

“That’s why it was fantastic to find out how Ridelines, an excellent local business, has been benefitting from the infrastructure, delivered as part of the DSSB programme, and that it has made such a difference to the day-to-day running of the business before and after Covid-19 and to the business’ owner and his family as well.”

The DSSB project has been delivered through two projects – led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in its area and the Scottish Government in the rest of Scotland. Funding partners include the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), BT Group, local authorities and the EU via the European Regional Development Fund.

Andy Weir, Ridelines owner, said: “Like any small business, the past few months have been challenging for us – but having fast, reliable broadband has helped.”