North Mainland Notes 03.10.08

Normal service?

DURING the last two years broadband users served by the Ollaberry, Hillswick and Vidlin exchanges have suffered an unacceptable loss of service, but by getting together as communities and approaching BT managers, the situation has, at last, been resolved.

Ollaberry, Hillswick and Vidlin were able to air their anger at the number of service losses and the poor fault reporting system at a meeting organised by MSP Tavish Scott with BT managers and SIC officials in March.

Unfortunately the outcome of the meeting was disappointing although BT Scottish Affairs head Ian Shanks, who was in attendance at the discussions, agreed to be a point of contact for communities who may suffer future difficulties. When further loss of service occurred, community members in Northmavine and Vidlin contacted Mr Shanks who began an investigation into the problem which also involved his colleagues in England from BT Operate and BT Wholesale.

The eventual root cause of the problem was traced to a faulty transmission card on the route between Lerwick and Glasgow and the cards at both ends were replaced, resulting in a normal service for Ollaberry, Hillswick and Vidlin.

Mr Shanks and his colleagues Keith Lawton and Steven Hunt flew to Shetland this week to meet members of the Vidlin and Northmavine communities, as well as Mr Scott, SIC and HIE officials to explain the problems and how they had been resolved.

As well as changing the transmission cards, the fault reporting system has been improved. Previously, despite customers making it clear that other broadband users in their exchange area were suffering loss of service, ISP call centre staff insisted on following the “script” and customers were often led to believe the fault lay with their equipment. This could mean loss of service for 2-4 days before the full picture filtered through to BT and the loss of service was rectified at the exchange.

BT has now contacted internet service providers and set up a “fast track” facility to ensure that faults from rural communities in Shetland are reported to BT early if other users in the area are affected.

During the meeting, questions were put to BT managers regarding future upgrading of the BT broadband system in general.

Mr Shanks made it clear that although 21st Century Network (21CN) will be installed in Shetland by 2011/2012, this will not help customers on the edge of broadband limits where the copper cable from the telephone exchange to households has to travel a long distance. 21CN will only see a marked increase in broadband speed for those living near to an exchange, he said.

Further improvements could be made through the use of fibre for instance, but this would prove costly for BT and the business case has to be balanced against investment. In Shetland, due to the relatively small numbers of customers in comparison to more populated areas, return on BT investment would not stack up financially for the company.

Members of both the Vidlin and Northmavine communities agreed at the meeting that broadband was an essential part of the infrastructure in rural areas and plays and even greater importance to rural communities and businesses where distance often dictates that more services and facilities are used on-line.

This is borne out by the uptake of broadband in rural areas. As broadband service becomes an increasingly essential part of business and community life and an ever increasing amount of data needs to be sent and received, broadband speeds of 0.5mgb are painfully inadequate. There is a real danger that businesses may relocate or be put off setting up in areas with poor transmission speeds.

Current talk of decentralisation of some SIC services and remote working will not be an option for those areas of Shetland that do not have access to sufficient speeds. Broadband could be a really effective tool to help retain and increase our rural populations and improve our economy in Shetland. Issues surrounding access to a fast reliable service need to be addressed by us as a community, and our politicians, soon.

Quiz night at Eshaness

The dark nights are now approaching rapidly and as long daylight evenings become a thing of the past till next year, it’s now time to look for ways to fill the evenings.

If you’re looking to keep those brain cells in tip top condition, the Eshaness Community Centre is having a quiz night on Sunday at 7.30pm.

If there is enough community interest the centre hope to hold monthly quizzes during the winter.

Splinters say thank you

Mike and Di Newbold would like to thank the parents, children and “customers” who supported the Splinters fund-raising in Brae Hall on Sunday.

The event was organised to raise funds to purchase a piece of equipment for a young local lass.

The youngsters are also so grateful to Matthew Lawrence for his kindness and consideration in freely offering his dance skills for the three hours of strenuous rehearsals.

Mike and Di said: “In this day and age where so much bad press is given to youngsters it was a privilege to be in Brae Hall and see the caring, enthusiastic set of youngsters who had given their time and effort so willingly.

“They are set a wonderful example by their parents who are so supportive of the group and anything they undertake.”

The generous amount raised will help Caitlin’s grandparents, George and Janet Chapman of Voe, purchase a lightweight buggy for £1,113.00. It was also so good to see such fantastic support from the surrounding community.

Festival food

Shetland’s first Food Festival will take place between today and Sunday, 12th October and is supported by EventScotland.

As part of the event eateries and community halls in the North Mainland will hold special events and increase the usual range of local produce and dishes.

On Sunday Busta House Hotel in Brae will have a food and stories evening. Folk will be able to enjoy a delicious meal from 7.30pm to 9pm followed by an hour of Shetland stories and fiddle music.

A menu featuring Shetland fayre will be available for the duration of the festival and will include Shetland hill lamb and the chef’s own home-made pate.

For further information and bookings, please contact Busta House Hotel on (01806) 522506. The Vidlin hall is the venue for a traditional Shetland Sunday lunch, using the best of Shetland produce, on Sunday 12th October from noon to 2pm.

Diners will be able to choose from Shetland vegetable soup, fish, lamb and beef. If you have enough room after the starter and main course, the Shetland Fudge cheesecake comes highly recommended. Bookings are essential – please contact Monique Hunter on (01806) 577312.

To round off your gourmet day on the 12th, the Ollaberry hall is having its famous Sunday teas from 3pm to 6pm, so that just gives folk time to digest Sunday lunch at Vidlin and drive off for a quick tour around Northmavine before settling at Ollaberry for a final feast.

During the festival, the menu at Braewick Cafe, Eshaness, will include dishes cooked using their own home grown products.

Lamb will be available in a slow cooked stew and a ploughman’s lunch will be on offer with home grown roast beef and pork terrine. This will be topped with a home grown and homemade chutney – all served with homemade bread.

The cafe is open Thursday to Monday 10am-5pm (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). Full Sunday lunches are available from 12.30pm to 2pm but booking is advisable. Telephone Christina on (01806) 503345 for further information.

A mouth watering menu will be on offer at the Mid Brae Inn with a large selection of dishes using Shetland salmon, lamb, beef and mussels. Dishes will be accompanied by homemade chips, boiled baby tatties, salad or vegetables. The kitchen is open from Monday to Saturday from 5.30pm to 8.45pm and on Sunday from 6.30pm to 8.45pm. To book a table call (01806) 522634.

The Pierhead Restaurant and Bar has a reputation for fantastic local seafood. During the festival the chef will cook up a range of specials in addition to the seafood including pork stroganoff, steak and ale pie, steak and homemade chicken curry.

The Pierhead is open daily from noon to 2pm for lunch, 6pm to 9pm for dinner and Sunday lunch from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. For further information, or to book a table, call (01806) 588332.

Harvest thanksgiving

As hairst approaches and to celebrate a good harvest this year, the North Roe Church of Scotland is holding a harvest thanksgiving service and social.

The service of thanksgiving will take place on Sunday at noon with a social on Monday evening at 7.30pm. The social will include various items from community members and an eight o’clocks. Harvest produce will be available for a donation.

Maree Hay


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