An independent broadband firm has secured £20m from the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) to help bring high-speed fibre to areas of Scotland where internet connectivity lags behind.

Lothian Broadband received the ‘cornerstone funding’ to help tackle digital inequality in rural communities and small towns across the country.

The Bank’s funding commitment is in addition to £5 million of new investment from the company’s current shareholders and is part of Lothian Broadband Group’s plans to invest £75 million to connect over 70,000 new premises in rural communities and small towns across Scotland over the next four years.

LBG is already investing to deliver full-fibre broadband across East Lothian, and according to its website it is ‘reliably providing over 1,300 customers with internet speeds they could only dream of with other suppliers’.

The announcement signals an expansion of LBG’s geographic ambitions, with funding now secured to drive further operational scale-up and rapidly accelerate fibre deployment in 2022.

Digital inequality has been heightened during the pandemic, and the Bank will be supporting a strong and experienced management team to roll out a future-proofed broadband network to tens of thousands of households and businesses who would otherwise be waiting years before receiving a Gigabit-capable broadband service.

Eilidh Mactaggart, CEO of the Scottish National Investment Bank, said: “The Bank’s investment provides the cornerstone funding required for LBG to rapidly accelerate its operational scale-up and fibre deployment in 2022.

“This investment  will support the improvement of digital connectivity in rural and semi-rural areas of Scotland, helping to address inequality of access to digital infrastructure outside of our cities and major towns.”

One of the Bank’s three key missions is to extend the equality of opportunity by improving places. The LBG investment will help increase digital connectivity to under serviced communities.

Gavin Rodgers, a former build evolution programme lead at Virgin Media, is CEO of Lothian Broadband. He said: “The backing of the Scottish National Investment Bank enables us to continue our rapid scale up as we establish the leading fibre-to-the-premise deployment platform for rural communities and small towns across Scotland.

“This new investment supports LBG’s commitment to building quality digital infrastructure and our inclusive, community-based approach to every village and town we serve.”

The company is chaired by businessman and blogger Kevin Hague, who is also chair of These Islands, a political organisation opposed to the break-up of the UK.

The Bank’s investment supports UK and Scottish government commitments to high-speed broadband access. The UK Government has a target of at least 85% of the population having access to gigabit (1,000 Mbps) broadband by 2025 under its National Infrastructure Strategy.