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Rural communities in the Highlands and Islands are set to gain access to super-fast broadband services, it has been revealed.

The Scottish Government is introducing next-generation broadband to communities and businesses in some of the remotest parts of the UK.

A £120 million project, run by broadband provider BT and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), will see underground and sub-sea cables connect the Scottish islands to the UK mainland.

Under current plans, the fibre broadband networks are expected to be up and running by 2020.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE, said bringing super-fast internet services to the Highlands and Islands will be "the largest and most challenging rural broadband project in the UK".

"Businesses and communities will see benefits where they matter most, including in education, in supporting healthcare services and by opening up new markets," he stated.

"Our ultimate aim is for all parts of the Highlands and Islands to benefit and this news brings us a step closer to our goal."

Scottish Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil noted that everybody in the region recognises the importance of access to super-fast broadband, not just for the future of local economies but for all aspects of public and social life.

"Whether it's a small business competing in the global market through the use of super-fast broadband, or whether it's the granny and grandpa talking to their grandchildren in New Zealand, super-fast broadband can change the lives of people for the better in these rural communities," he stated.

"This substantial funding injection will bring those improvements to people across the Highlands and Islands."

Mr Neil said this is "only the start", and further investment will be sought from local government and the private sector.

This can lead to further economic growth, help create jobs and bring communities closer together, he claimed.

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