The Braemar Mountain Rescue team handled a different type of terrain this week, as they helped welcome the arrival of fibre broadband in Ballater.
More than 1,000 homes and businesses in the Aberdeenshire and Cairngorms National Park town are now able to connect to fibre broadband - thanks to the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme.
The properties in Ballater join more than 55,000 homes and businesses in Aberdeenshire which are now able to access fibre broadband through the Digital Scotland rollout.
Malcolm MacIntyre from Braemar Mountain Rescue helped with the celebrations at a special event on Tuesday. He joined Gordon Riddler, Board Member of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Angus McNicol from the Cairngorms Business Partnership and members of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband team, to unveil one of the new street cabinets that will serve part of the town.
The latest premises are among more than 412,000 across Scotland which can now access fibre broadband services at speeds of up to 80Mbps* as part of the £410 million Digital Scotland rollout.
Fibre broadband enables multiple users in a home or business to access the internet, download and share large files at the same time more quickly than ever before. In order to take advantage of the higher speeds now available, residents should contact their service provider.
On the day, residents were also able to attend a special drop-in event on Church Square to get up to speed with the technology and seek advice on areas such as signing up with a service provider.
Attendees also climbed aboard the new Digital Scotland Fibre Showcase, a specially-adapted vehicle which features all of the equipment used in the roll-out of fibre broadband. The unique vehicle includes equipment which is familiar to members of the public - like new green street cabinets - as well as some of the things they don’t often see - such as how fibre optic cables are ‘blown’ underground as part of the deployment.
Fibre broadband availability in Ballater coincides with the recent announcement of the first areas in the Cairngorms National Park being able to connect to fibre services. The village of Kincraig and the first parts of Aviemore joined many homes and businesses in surrounding areas in Aberdeenshire like Aboyne, Tarland and Lumphanan.
The Digital Scotland rollout is being delivered on the ground by engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach. BT is investing £126 million in the programme, in addition to its commercial rollout of fibre broadband.
All of the homes and businesses in the Ballater area reached by the Digital Scotland rollout were served by ‘Exchange Only’ lines which run directly from the exchange to the premises – bypassing the usual road-side cabinets which are integral to the fibre rollout. Engineers rearranged the existing network, laying new cables to reroute lines through extra road-side cabinets to overcome this challenge.
Malcolm MacIntyre from the Braemar Mountain Rescue centre, said: “It was great that the Braemar Mountain Rescue team helped with the launch of fibre broadband in the town.
“Planning and preparation is vital before setting out on Cairngorms’ treacherous and unpredictable terrain. One benefit of fibre broadband in the area means that everyone visiting can keep up to date with information regarding weather forecasts and how to keep safe and be aware when out on the mountain side.”
Aberdeenshire Council has contributed £16 million to the Digital Scotland rollout in addition to block funding from all the Scottish local authorities.
Councillor Moira Ingleby, Chairwoman of the council’s Marr Area Committee, said: “It’s really exciting to hear that so many residences in and around Ballater are already able to connect to fibre broadband and we’d like to thank the Mountain Rescue team for supporting our launch here today.
“They have rightly highlighted one of the many advantages a fast, reliable broadband connection can bring and we hope its arrival will be valuable for tourism and other local industries.
“Fibre broadband will also provide a huge boost for local residents and businesses when they sign up with a service provider, and it’s great that many came along to the event at Church Square to learn more.”
Gordon Riddler, Board Member of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “I am very pleased to see fibre broadband services now available in Ballater. It’s a big step forward for the area and another strong asset for the National Park. Its arrival will support the development of a sustainable, low carbon economy, which is essential for thriving businesses and communities.”
Mark Tate, Chief Executive of the Cairngorms Business Partnership, added: ““Access to fast reliable broadband is a key challenge for rural business and visitors to this beautiful part of the world expect it. It is fantastic to see fibre enabled broadband available in Ballater and we have encouraged as many businesses as possible to come along today to learn what has been delivered and understand better how it can transform their business.
“Improved broadband is a key strand of the Cairngorms National Park Economic Development strategy and we very much welcome the delivery of fibre based services in many of the towns and villages across the park. We would like to see continued investment to give all businesses access to superfast broadband in the National Park, and will continue to work with partners and stakeholders towards this.”
Local people can check the interactive map on the Digital Scotland website (/whereandwhen) to find out if they can get the service and further information is also available on Twitter @ScotSuperfast or Facebook at www.facebook.com/scotlandsuperfast