A delegation from the isles is being invited to Faroe to see how the community there is able to provide almost its entire population with high speed broadband as the SIC considers how to go about setting up its own telecommunications firm.
Council chief executive David Clark and convener Sandy Cluness were in Kirkwall over the weekend as part of a biennial forum between Shetland, Orkney, Faroe and the Western Isles to discuss a variety of issues.
Faroe’s prime minister Kaj Leo Johannesen extended the invitation to all three of the Scottish island groups and a delegation from Shetland is likely to take up the offer later this year or early in 2010.
Mr Cluness said: “The Faroese are specialists on broadband – almost 100 per cent of the population is fairly high speed. A lack of decent broadband is one of the main things that’s holding us back.”
The council’s economic development department is in regular contact with their North Atlantic counterparts because of negotiations over the laying of a fibre optic cable from Faroe which beached at Maywick last year. They hope that by providing faster and more reliable broadband it will not only aid existing businesses and households but help attract new IT-related businesses to the isles.
Because BT repeatedly refused to say when it would pay to connect Shetland to the cable, the SIC recently agreed to spend £1 million on the 20 or so miles of cable needed to hook it up to a point of presence in Lerwick.
Islanders may be able to get their broadband and phone through a council-backed company, Shetland Telecom, after councillors also agreed to create a team geared towards finding ways of improving communication. It comes on the back of an eight-hour phone and broadband blackout back in June, with councillors eager to avoid a repeat scenario.