People in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are to have access to fixed-line broadband technology for the first time, starting next year.
BT engineer Murdo Morrison at Stornoway Harbour
BT Scotland and Thus, backed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, have unveiled plans to extend ADSL access to 4,700 businesses and consumers in Stornoway, 4,300 in Kirkwall and 4,200 in Lerwick.
When the work is completed in Spring 2004, users will have "always-on" internet access at speeds of about 10 times a standard dial-up modem.
BT Scotland will lease capacity on Thus's wireless links to the islands and subscribers will be connected back to BT's broadband network on the mainland.
BT Scotland Bob Downes said: "The complexities of the task are highlighted by the fact that it's taking the joint efforts of two communications companies and the enterprise agency to beam the technology across the Minch and Pentland Firth."
Thus CEO Bill Allan said: "This is a landmark telecommunication project for Scotland which will bring realy benefits to the people of the islands."
HIE's chief executive Sandy Cumming added: "The HIE network is committed to doing all in its power to help bring broadband coverage to as close to 100% of our area as possible."
Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell has pledged that rural communities will not be geographically disadvantaged by poor access to broadband.