Radical SIC plans to improve the isles’ broadband infrastructure have cleared the latest hurdle after the European Union granted state aid clearance.
Project manager Marvin Smith said he was very pleased with the news, which – provided the snow vanishes – should mean trial work ahead of laying a cable can begin in mid-January.
The hope is that a cable hooking Lerwick up to a fibre-optic cable “point of presence” at Hoswick will be completed before the spring is out, with work between the town and Scalloway then proceeding later in the year.
Local firm Tulloch Developments have won the contract to lay the cable, using a revolutionary “micro-trenching” technique. It involves a machine cutting a 20mm slot in the road surface to a depth of up to two metres, laying the cable in foam packing and filling the hole again with concrete and tar on top.
The SIC is investing around £1.1 million in its new Shetland Telecom venture after becoming fed up with intransigence from BT over upgrading the network so that businesses and residents in the isles can benefit from faster broadband internet connection speeds. The council also received a £367,500 grant towards the project from the European Regional Development Fund this autumn.
When the cable was laid from Faroe to the UK mainland in 2007, BT refused to join Shetland into the fibre optic link even though it crosses the isles from Maywick to Hoswick on its way to Orkney and Banff.
Councillors have repeatedly criticised the telecoms giant for failing to take action to increase the quality and reliability of bandwidth connections, despite having leased capacity on the cable.