Letter from Edinburgh

Just how quick are Shetland’s broad­band connections? Will the optic cable that Tulloch Develop­ments have been laying down the south road make a difference? Why could the telecom companies not provide enough capacity when Shet­land was overflowing with visitors and hamefarers in July?

Some will recall the great claims made many years back about the “tele-croft”. This was the future. We would be connected to the out­side world, not just by the north boat and a Viscount, but through a computer. And this was in the age of dial-up connections and a lump of technology on the kitchen table that ran slower than the PTO on the Massey Ferguson 135.

Some of this has come to pass. We have technology at home for everything from booking tickets to school use … oh and games. Agri­culture like many local industries files forms electronically. The tax return is done in the same way.

So there are few aspects to modern life that cannot be done without the internet. Facebook and Twitter are a huge part of many people’s lives. My two-year-old was found in the plastic ball pool yesterday playing with his sister’s laptop. No harm done. No intimate Facebook message dispatched. Just observation and copy in full flow.

So Shetland is as dependent on the internet as anywhere. Flybe’s summer sale online at the weekend caused the usual connection prob­lems. Unsurprisingly many local folk sought to buy cheaper flights before the midnight Sunday cut-off but couldn’t get to the Flybe website because many were doing exactly the same. Or so I presume.

And with Tall Ships in Shetland it was the sheer quantity of laptops, mobiles and other devices needing connections that appeared to be the challenge. A quick scan of You-Tube and similar showed how many photographs and videos of ships, music and people appeared online pretty well instantaneously over the weekend.

People want their experience available to the world via the web immediately. There is a stat on how many of us will obtain online infor­mation from a mobile rather than a “traditional” laptop or pc in the coming years. It’s above 50 per cent already. So that remorseless trend will ask for technical solutions from BT and the like.

So where does all this go? Few are prepared to put up with a second hand service, ie a slow one, or one that doesn’t work at all, even for a few minutes. That’s not the way people live their lives in this rushed century.

So this summer has brought home a pretty stark truth to me. That the companies who provide telecom services to Shetland need to get better. We have a busy tourism year, we have a still developing oil and gas industry with an insatiable desire for always on, real time information flows.

So speed is of the essence. Time for islanders to see a better service.

Tavish Scott MSP


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