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Caithness News Bulletins October 2005

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      Highland Council

A 70 million project to introduce broadband technology into schools, libraries and offices in the Highlands and Islands moved forward this week. An advert has been placed in the Official Journal of the European Union seeking the interest of contractors to install broadband in all targeted locations by mid 2008.

The project is being led by The Highland Council, in partnership with councils in Argyll and Bute, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles who aim to award the contract by the middle of next year.

Arthur McCourt, Chief Executive of The Highland Council, said: "Ensuring that local public services have access to the latest broadband technology is a vital step in modernising local government. It will provide a tremendous boost to modern learning and teaching practice and to the provision of services to the public."

The initiative complements the Broadband for Scotland's Rural and Remote Areas initiative project, led by the Scottish Executive and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which is currently bringing ADSL broadband to virtually all communities across the Highlands and Islands. Although concentrated on Council facilities, the Pathfinder project will result in further large scale upgrades to the telecommunications infrastructure across the Highlands and Islands bringing wider knock-on benefits for businesses, individuals and other organisations.

The majority of the funding for the project is being provided by the Scottish Executive.

Tavish Scott, Scottish Minister for Transport and Telecommunications said: "I am delighted that the Pathfinder procurement is underway. This investment by the Highlands and Islands authorities dovetails with our own Broadband for Scotland's Rural and Remote Areas initiative and will result in further benefits for the most remote and rural areas across Scotland."

A similar pathfinder project is being run in the South of Scotland in a partnership between Scottish Borders Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council.

A key priority of the Pathfinder projects is to ensure that the 72 secondary and 379 primary schools in the Highlands and Islands are connected at a minimum speed of 4 megabytes, 8 times faster than current connections - with much higher speeds likely. The educational benefits which will arise from this and other complementary initiatives such as the Scottish Schools Digital Network Intranet schools lie at the heart of this project.

Bruce Robertson, Director of Education, Culture and Sport for the Highland Council said: "A key objective of providing broadband networking for Highland schools is to ensure that school pupils have a learning environment in which they will benefit from modern technology and new approaches to learning. A broadband network will provide teachers and pupils with the possibility of a flourishing online learning environment that will complement and enhance the traditional learning environment in schools.

"Teachers and pupils will be able to take advantage of a wide range of high quality online materials and learning tools once a broadband network and a national learning hub, SSDN are in place. Broadband will enable the integration of moving image media into the heart of teaching and learning. The speed and bandwidth available through broadband will allow superb quality video conferencing, access to video and other multi-media resources. The enhanced levels of communication that only a broadband network will bring, and the ability to foster educational and cultural links with people across the world, will play a major role in the future in helping to develop local, national and international citizenship in our pupils."