CityFibre, the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, is connecting 152 public sector sites in the Highlands to gigabit-capable full fibre broadband as part of a £7.5m contract to bolster digital services in the area through the SWAN framework.
Work has restarted on building critical digital infrastructure in Inverness, including NHS sites such as Raigmore Hospital being treated as a priority due to the Coronavirus.
Construction activity initially began in autumn last year but was put on hold at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the approval of The Highland Council and other key partners, essential work has recommenced in line with guidance from the Scottish Road Works Commissioner and confirmation that the Scottish Government identifies telecommunications as Critical National Infrastructure necessary for the functioning of the country and the delivery of essential services.
Local contractor GCU UK Ltd, which is leading the build on CityFibre’s behalf, will work with additional measures in place and follow social distancing protocols as outlined by Public Health Scotland to ensure the safety of workers and the wider community.
The overall project, part of Capita’s Scotland-wide SWAN programme, will see gigabit-capable connectivity installed at schools, colleges, libraries, offices, hospitals and health centres across Inverness, Fort William, Thurso and Wick. Whilst NHS sites have been prioritised in the short term, all 152 sites are due to be connected to the network during 2020 and 2021. Some public buildings are already benefitting from the new connections in Wick and Thurso.
This has been made possible by a pioneering collaboration between several organisations including The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the University of Highlands and Islands, NHS Highland, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport.
Allan McEwan, CityFibre’s City Manager for Inverness, said: “This project is all about future-proofing and transforming public services across the Highlands. The last few weeks have underlined the vital role these services play in all our lives and it is so important that they have the digital infrastructure they need to deliver the best possible levels of service to everyone in the community.
“The infrastructure we are building has been classed as critical and that has allowed our construction teams to restart activity following a brief hiatus. Of course, all construction crews will be following social distancing protocols that are designed to protect themselves and people in the community. Appropriate PPE will also be used to help them carry out these essential works.”
Full fibre internet is revered as the best in connectivity for its speed, near unlimited bandwidth and reliability. CityFibre uses modern build techniques to deploy the network quickly and effectively, while working closely with The Highland Council and local communities to manage disruption and ensure a timely and successful roll-out.