At its recent meeting the Advisory Board of the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership discussed progress with the rollout of Next Generation (“superfast”) Broadband to Caithness & North Sutherland. Following recent discussions with Highlands and Islands Enterprise about timescales for the programme, members broadly welcomed the news that BT has started on work that should see Wick and Thurso areas able to take advantage of NGB services from early 2015.
Leader of the Highland Council Cllr Drew Hendry, who also chairs the CNSRP Advisory Board, said “This region-wide programme is hugely complex, so members were delighted to hear that work has already started to ensure the area’s main exchanges are ready as soon as possible. Caithness and North Sutherland has a wide geographic spread of homes and businesses, and members want to work with HIE and BT to ensure that every opportunity is taken to maximise the reach of the services, including use of innovative technologies such as 4G wireless where needed.”
Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, commented “The Advisory Board provides a good forum for addressing these important issues which will drive the area’s future economic wellbeing. The Chamber looks forward to working with HIE to help assess areas – particularly those outwith the main towns – where existing businesses require superfast services to sustain and grow their operations. We have already brought together a group of local stakeholders to work with HIE so that we understand the key factors influencing the roll-out programme, and we will be running a series of business engagement events in the area in the New Year. These events, sponsored by HIE, will allow businesses to find out more about the benefits of “superfast” broadband services and to discuss implications of this with an IT consultant and staff from both HIE and the Chamber.”
The Partnership’s Executive Board recognised the views expressed by Advisory Board members, and has welcomed the broad-based support being offered. CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver said “Our mission is to support the development of a diverse economy which moves away from dependence on Dounreay-related work. The availability of faster digital connectivity and bandwidth has become a key building block for any successful economy, so we welcome the news that work is already underway in our main towns, and particularly welcome the offers of support to help ensure that we make the most of the opportunity that Next Generation Broadband will bring to the north.”