26th May 2018
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Superfast broadband arrives

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The 35m “muckle gravit”, started in 2005 by world’s fastest knitter Hazel Tindall, was wound round a “street cabinet” connection point at the Böd o Gremista today. Hazel was invited to the launch of the super fast BT broadband connection. From left: BT Next Generation managing director Bill Murray, regional development director Carroll Buxton and digital director Stuart Robertson (borh HIE), Lord Wallace, Hazel Tindall, SIC political leader Garry Robinson and director of BT Scotland Brendan Dick. Photo: Dave Donaldson

The 35m “muckle gravit”, started in 2005 by world’s fastest knitter Hazel Tindall, was wound round a “street cabinet” connection point at the Böd o Gremista today. Hazel was invited to the launch of the super fast BT broadband connection. From left: BT Next Generation managing director Bill Murphy, regional development director Carroll Buxton and digital director Stuart Robertson (both HIE), Lord Wallace, Hazel Tindall, SIC political leader Gary Robinson and director of BT Scotland Brendan Dick. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Super fast broadband was officially introduced to Shetland today with the announcement that 4,000 properties will have access to the system, with that number expanding to 75 per cent coverage in 2016.

And the managing director of BT’s Next Generation Broadband has said that it will be possible to connect virtually all Shetland properties given the will and a co-operative approach.

To mark the occasion a ceremony was held at one of the telecommunications cabinets outside the Böd of Gremista. The cabinet is one of 17 to be installed in the initial phase that will see the fibre network available to customers in Lerwick, Quarff and Sumburgh.

Shetland is the first island group in Scotland to see the roll out of super fast broadband. The infrastructure is already in place thanks to the Faroese cable that runs through the isles to the Scottish coast near Banff.

The £146 million network, being delivered by a partnership of the Scottish and UK governments, Broadband Delivery UK and HIE is to bring super fast broadband to all of Scotland, with recognition that the remote Highlands and Islands could benefit most from the links.

However, outlying areas like Unst will be last to be connected, as the most economical way to do it is start with the larger population centres.
An invited audience in Mareel heard a presentation on Wednesday outlining where the project is at and what will happen next.

HIE director of regional development Carroll Buxton said it was a “really important day for Shetland” and “one of the biggest economic development projects we have seen for quite some time.”

Advocate General for Scotland Lord Jim Wallace, who was Orkney and Shetland MP for 18 years, was in Lerwick to mark the announcement.

He said: “I really valued the opportunity to be in Lerwick today and meet some of the people and businesses that will benefit from today’s announcement. Shetland has been part of my life for many years and I know that this project – bringing together Scotland’s two governments with

Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Shetland Council, BT and others – will be welcomed by businesses, families and individual Shetlanders alike.

“This is the first of Scotland’s island communities to benefit from the roll-out of fibre broadband and it must just be the start, as more communities aspire to have access to what is increasingly seen as a necessary utility like electricity.

“Superfast broadband is a prime example of cutting edge technology becoming an essential part of everyday life. That is why the UK government is investing more than £120 million into rural broadband in Scotland to help support families, jobs and services and to help our businesses to expand and grow.”

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott welcomed the improvements to broadband services but has pressed for the improvements to reach the rest of Shetland as quickly as possible so that other island areas are not left behind.

Mr Scott said: “I welcome the improved broadband service that will benefit people in Lerwick, Sumburgh and Quarff. I have pressed for the improvements to reach the rest of Shetland as quickly as possible, otherwise areas of the islands that would really benefit from an improved broadband service and some which may not even have a service at all risk being left behind.

“The outer isles and Unst in particular are not part of this investment plan and I have urged both Governments and BT to redouble their efforts to secure the best possible service for these parts of Shetland.

“The NHS across Shetland has GP and staffing shortages and these would be helped if broadband were available at a higher standard at Baltasound and in other islands. Broadband also can help to slow down the remorseless pull into Lerwick. We need all the local agencies to work hard to support the rural and isolated parts of Shetland through all of their policies including broadband.”

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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8 comments

  1. Darren Johnson

    Its a shame tae see the liks o Sandwick missin oot in the initial phase especially since the cable comes ashore daer an passes the exchange by aboot 20 feet!

    Reply
  2. Erik Smith

    So, how do you get connected? How much will it cost? Do you have to go with BT, or can you access it through other broadband providers? Things we want to know.

    Reply
    • Gary Robinson

      In reply to Erik’s “Things we want to know.” –

      You can get connected by contacting your internet service provider (ISP). Costs will vary from one ISP to another so it may be worthwhile shopping around. I’m told that you don’t have to use BT and that there is a range of ISPs that can offer fibre-optic broadband over this new infrastructure.

      It’s important to note that you won’t be automatically upgraded to fibre-optic broadband. You will have to place an order with either your existing ISP or a new one if you decide to shop around.

      Reply
  3. Bob Skinley

    Big deal frankly. I live in Gulberwick and although one of the new cabinets has been installed it won’t make any difference to me unless, of course, I’m prepared to pay extra, but heres the rub. As it stands I am a BT Unlimited Broadband Customer which means I should expect speeds of “up to” 17mb. Now whilst I appreciate that speed varies with things like distance to the exchange etc I expect to get at least a goodly percentage of what I am paying for, I think thats a reasonable expectation. Except what I get is around 2.5mb sometimes 3mb if I’m lucky, so only around a seventh of what I’m paying for. According to BT’s website, “Super Fast” Broadband is now available on my number, but, the best they can do speed-wise is around 14.9mb, again because of the distance from the cabinet. Still that would be better than what I’m getting at the moment except, they want me to pay more for privilege! So to summarise, I’m barely getting anything like the sorts of speeds I’m paying for and yet BT wants me to pay more for speeds which are less than what I’m paying for already. Got that? Nothing like stiffing the customer is there?

    Reply
    • Stuart Terris

      Pre fibre speeds are max 8mb and thats if you live next door to the exchange. The 17mb is if your exchange is a high speed pre fibre.

      The cost difference isn’t that much for fibre, only 7 quid more.

      Reply
  4. Aaron Foord

    On the basis we get less than 0.1MPS, it is about time that someone did something to improve our broadband service, and not in 2 years or 5 years but now. Businesses struggle in Unst to use the internet for the simplest tasks, even updating my own business website is such that sometimes it worls and sometimes it does not.

    Before long, as internet usage and dependancy grows, businesses and even domestic users will be avoiding islands like Unst simply because of the importance of good internet access – something we severely lack – and where will the island be then?

    Perhaps tavish Scott should be pushing a whole lot harder to help us, or perhaps providing us with subsidised satellite broadband in order that we stand a chance in the business world.

    Reply
  5. Lesley Gallagher

    Anyone connected to the 17 cabinets, all live now, in Lerwick, Quarff and Sumburgh, can check if they can get the service. The speeds you get will depend on how far you are from the cabinet. It’s an open network so you can shop around for the best deal.
    This is just the start of coverage in Shetland and BT, who won the contract to deliver the £146m public investment, is coming back to build new cabinets next year. By the end of 2016 we will reach around 76% of premises. This is a Highlands and Islands wide project, being led by HIE, and it’s designed to reach as many people as we can as quickly as we can between now and the end of 2016 with the budget we currently have available.

    Reply
  6. Tony Erwood

    The higher speed is still delivered over the phone line from the new cabinets to the customers premises. A VDSL modem/router will be required to carry the higher data rate over the phone line. The ISP will usually provide this as part of a contract. There are many ISP’s to choose from, BT is just one of them.

    However, the “superfast” VDSL broadband is only effective up to about a mile from the cabinet. Beyond that it is unlikely to be faster than the existing ADSL and may not work at all. ISP’s should be able to give an indication of expected speed based on postcode/address though the accuracy of this may vary. Also, as with ADSL broadband, the “superfast” VDSL broadband is a shared service so it will slow down at the busy times of the day.

    For people living in more rural parts of Shetland, the “superfast” broadband is likely to amount to nothing, no matter how long they wait.

    Reply

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