Across our city pavements, we see the ability of the Highlands to realise our ambitions.

Gigabit speed broadband connectivity is becoming a reality, and in this, we are ahead of many other UK city’s and even across Europe. Almost a year to the start of City Fibre’s project launch, we have cutting edge digital infrastructure ahead of most of the pack.

These massive strides do not happen in isolation and talk alone is never enough to get them going; they need vision, buy-in, effort and collaboration.

I’ve had the privilege of chairing the Gigabit City steering group, which has included the Highland Council, City Fibre, HIE, Highnet and, crucially, Inverness Chamber of Commerce. Undoubtedly the tireless efforts of Stewart Nicol and his team to engage with the business community ensured the project ‘got over the line.’

Back in 2016, we set out with a collective ambition to attract private investment to make Inverness a Gigabit city. It was clear from the offset that to make the case stack up, people in their homes and business would need to benefit from better connectivity.

Little did we know then, just how crucial better connectivity would become to our lives. COVID has brought with it a realisation of the importance of keeping connected with loved ones close and far. It also has forced many of us to look at doing more online. Now we rely on connectivity more than ever including for education, medical advice and, for many, work.

The infrastructure work happening across our city pavements is a reminder of why long term ambitions is so essential. Setting out long term ambition is never easy – bringing Gigabit to Inverness certainly wasn’t simple. Still,  as we found then, effective teamwork and a willingness to try can clear most obstacles.

It was teamwork that secured the West Link, City Region deal funding and progress on the opening of Inverness Castle. All of these projects were labelled pipe dreams by some just a few short years ago.

We cannot underestimate the challenges this health pandemic presents, and our focus rightly need to be in protecting our local economy, supporting businesses and our communities. However, to ensure the Highlands continues to thrive in the future, we also need to set out our next level of ambitions – and these should be around the kind of place and community we want to be now and into the future.

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