Campaign Update: Scotland’s next Gigabit City
When I was first elected as a Councillor in 2007, I must admit I found the speed of change frustrating. It quickly became clear, it wasn’t enough just to have a good idea – to get things done we needed a shared vision, with as many stakeholders as possible involved. A case in point was the ‘ring road’ folk had been talking about it since 1974. We knew if it was going to come to life, it needed a new approach, one stakeholders could get behind. This new approach allowed us to turn what until then was just an age-old idea into reality, and today the West Link feels almost as if it had always been part of our city roads network.
It was much the same approach that delivered the £315m City Region Deal. Again, it was a shared vision and a team effort that not delivered the deal, but meant we had the competitive advantage over other cities.
We embarked on a similar approach to make Inverness a Gigabit City, one I hope will soon bear fruit. Over the past year or so I have chaired a Gigabit City working group which comprises the Chamber of Commerce, The Highland Council, HIE, fibre network specialists and others. Together we have been working to deliver broadband speeds which will establish us a leader in connectivity, rather than playing catch up, as we have always done.
The Scottish Government has already committed to a whopping £600m investment to give every home and business in Scotland superfast broadband by 2021, even though broadband remains the responsibility of the UK Government. They know we cannot wait around and with two-thirds of this money earmarked for the North of Scotland, their commitment will make a huge difference to many Highland households.
Gigabit connectivity takes us to a whole new level. Instead of just getting by with internet speeds, our business community and public services will be ahead of the curve. With the compelling case put and a lot of work by all involved, I am confident it will not be long before the UK Government allow the use of its£4.2m of Local Full Fibre Network fund, to make gigabit connectivity a reality in Inverness, as well as in Fort William, Thurso and Wick.
Sometimes change can be fast. Very fast.