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Businesses looking for answers on roll-out of superfast broadband

John O'Groat Journal

A meeting is to take place later this month to discuss the superfast broadband roll-out programme to the far north.

This was confirmed yesterday by Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce.

There has been growing criticism about the time it will take to get the high-speed upgrade in the area. Caithness is expected to be linked into the system by 2015.

"We do think there are some major issues concerning connectivity and timescales and we've been seeking views from local businesses. We have arranged a meeting for later this month with local stakeholders and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to discuss the superfast broadband roll-out and the implications for our area. We will hopefully have a clearer idea then and what our next course of action should be," said Ms Morris.

Former Wick councillor Deirdre Mackay, who chairs the Caithness and Sutherland area committee, has demanded answers as to why the far north is not among the first locations to be part of the upgrade.

Caithness business representatives have also voiced their anger about the timescale for the faster broadband. Dounreay Stakeholder Group is pressing for answers and claimed the decommissioning of Dounreay would take £60 million out of the local economy. That should have justified the eare being among the first to benefit from superfast broadband, it argued.

Last week Thurso community councillor Ian Mackay added his voice to the complaints over the roll-out programme.

He is unhappy the area will not benefit from the scheme for twp years and claimed the far north should have been given higher priority to help the area in its efforts to regenerate the economy in the wake of the decommissioning of Dounreay.

Mr Mackay wonded why companies such as O2 and Vodafone could not provide the superfast broadband as well as BT.

Thurso Highland councillor Roger Saxon said BT got the main contract as it has the infrastructure to do the job. He also pointed out money was provided by the government to help get the upgrade to rural areas.