What broadband options are available in the Scottish Highlands and Islands? header image

Published: 22nd Apr 2015

The Scottish Highlands and Islands embody the Scotland of your imagination, with breathtaking landscapes, rolling hills, lush greenery, interesting wildlife, fascinating history, and peace and quiet for miles.

Whether you've lived there all your life, a few years or are planning to move to the area, you'll be drawn in by the natural beauty that surrounds you. However, there is one drawback to living in such a remote part of the UK: the broadband services that are available to residents.

There are often reports in newspapers about communities living in the Highlands and Islands struggling with snail-paced speeds and inconsistent connectivity, which can be disconcerting for those looking to move into the area.

So, what broadband options are available in this part of Scotland?

Super-fast speeds

Under the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, the government intends to roll out super-fast speeds to 95 per cent of the country by 2017. However, public spending watchdog Audit Scotland claims the speeds that will be provided to the countryside could be one-third of those provided to the rest of the UK.

The body explained that technological advances and further investment would be needed in the Highlands and Islands before residents will be able to access improved speeds. To rectify this, the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) have agreed two contracts with BT to develop a network with the capacity to deliver speeds of between 40 and 80 Mbps.Mbps.

Caroline Gardner, auditor general for Scotland, said: “This investment by the public sector is intended to mainly benefit rural areas, where such access is currently either low or non-existent.

“Our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme is a vital first step - extending fibre infrastructure into areas where the market would not otherwise go - and Audit Scotland’s report makes clear it is being managed effectively and that roll-out is currently ahead of contractual targets.”

Murdo Fraser, member of the Scottish Parliament and a Conservative, has supported this initiative as he believes that you shouldn't have to travel to a city to get a decent internet connection. He added that he wants to see these plans accelerated to ensure that when someone does get access to better connectivity, it's fast enough "to make a noticeable difference to their lives".

However, a separate report from Audit Scotland claims that despite being widely advertised, the fast service from BT is not available to all homes in the Highlands and Islands and the firm has not revealed what speeds customers can expect, leaving many residents in the dark about the reality of the situation.

Satellite broadband

There is an alternative to traditional cable-based broadband, if you live in an area that either doesn't have access to this type of service or can only access a substandard speeds. Satellite broadband is the perfect remedy for rural communities that are facing these issues.

This type of connectivity isn't limited by geographical location, as the satellite is 22,000 miles above ground in space, meaning it can provide equal coverage to all those in its footprint. Furthermore, because of where the dish is located, the service is less likely to drop out at peak times, which means you can keep surfing the net, streaming a show or answering your emails without interruption.

Those living in the Scottish Highlands and Islands could benefit greatly from satellite broadband, as it offers them respite from the snail-paced speeds they currently suffer with and a quality service while they are waiting to find out when they can expect to be able to access super-fast speeds, if ever!