The Scottish government has announced £120m in funding for a super-fast broadband rollout in the Highlands and Islands.
The project will be the largest and one of the trickiest regional deployments in the UK, given the area's topography. The funding comes from a £250m pot for rolling out super-fast broadband across Scotland, with just over £100m of that money coming from the central UK government.
"Scotland's ambition to deliver world-class digital connectivity by 2020 has received a boost today, with the announcement of £120m for the Highlands and Islands," Scottish infrastructure cabinet secretary Alex Neil said in a statement.
"Everybody in the Highlands and Islands recognises the importance of access to super-fast broadband, not just for the future of our local economies but indeed for the future of our children, for our education, our health and every aspect of life in the modern world," Neil added.
The Highlands and Islands region is, by its nature, an expensive proposition when it comes to rolling out broadband. Although 99 percent of premises in the region already have access to basic broadband of some kind, Neil complained last August that £300m would be needed to deploy super-fast broadband there — at the time, the UK government was only freeing up £68.8m for the whole of Scotland.
The difference between that £300 million and the £120 million revealed on Monday will have to come from the private sector. At the end of last year, Cable & Wireless pulled out of a pilot scheme to provide super-fast connectivity to the Highlands and Islands, so BT is the only significant bidder left for the project.
On Monday, the Scottish government said that the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) development agency was "in discussions with BT" over the rollout, which involve "a broad range of technical solutions" including sub-sea cables.
"This funding puts the Highlands and Islands on track to deliver the largest and most challenging rural broadband project in the UK," HIE chief executive Alex Paterson said in the statement. "By bringing together the expertise and investment of both the private and public sector we want to roll out a service which will change the face of the region."