Rural communities could be a step nearer achieving improved broadband links already enjoyed by Vidlin, Fetlar and West Burrafirth, which in turn may benefit from a speed boost in March.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott is to meet the head of Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) in Edinburgh today to push for more detail on the roll-out of faster broadband to peripheral island areas.
Mr Scott said that providing broadband in the likes of West Sandwick, Uyeasound or Fair Isle needed a technical solution and hoped that could be identified by working with CBS “to move the whole of Shetland forward.”
He is due to meet CBS development director Mark Tate, whose organisation is a new £5 million initiative to help kick-start rural broadband projects in communities that receive a speed of less than 2 Mbps.
Mr Scott has previously expressed concern that government funding for broadband will only help existing towns and built up areas and not the far flung parts of Shetland.
He said: “There is much talk of connecting island communities using broadband, but so far no detail. I am pleased to be meeting the boss of Community Broadband Scotland is he is charged with delivering better or new broadband to the outlying areas. That is very welcome as these areas seem to some to be a nuisance rather than the core of real digital connections which can help every part of Shetland move forward.”
SIC’s network service Shetland Telecom will meanwhile take over the link to Vidlin and Fetlar as well as schools and offices within its fibre network, which stretches from Sandwick to Sellaness, on 20th March.
According to Shetland Telecom project manager Marvin Smith this ought to yield faster network service than that currently provided by contract holder Cable and Wireless. Vidlin residents have around 6mbs service at present but this “should be improved,” while Fetlar residents will also benefit once Shetland Telecom sets up its own microwave link.
West Burrafirth has a microwave link direct to Lerwick, but as this type of link degrades in capacity with distance, any extension of the fibre network west would improve speeds – theoretically reaching 25mbs.
Mr Smith added that plans to upgrade Shetland’s exchanges would put 75 per cent of residents within reach of a “next generation network”, but that speed would continue to depend on the distance each customer is from the exchange, with those further from exchanges continuing to receive slower connections.