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Shetland Telecom Claims Scottish Highlands Need More Money for Broadband

Saturday, Jul 14th, 2012 (7:56 am) - Score 678

The project manager for Shetland Telecom’s effort to roll-out a new fibre optic infrastructure around the remote Shetland Islands, Marvin Smith, has warned that the Scottish Government‘s (UK) recent allocation of £120m to improve broadband in the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) region will not be enough.

At present 99% of the most northerly rural Highlands and Islands (Scotland, UK) region can already receive a “basic broadband” service, yet Ofcom reports that nobody in the vast geographic expanse has access to superfast connectivity (i.e. 24Mbps+) and the average “sync” speed is just 5.7Mbps (the UK averages 7.5 Megabits/sec), with 17.2% receiving less than 2Mbps.

By comparison the Scottish Government wants superfast broadband (30Mbps+) services to reach 85-90% of homes and businesses by 2015, rising to 100% by 2020. But Marvin Smith fears that the commitment will still not be enough to link up the entirety of such a vast and economically challenging area.

Marvin Smith, Shetland Telecom’s Project Manager, said:

It’s brilliant to see that level of investment coming into the highlands and islands but we need much, much more because this is the most expensive place to get to with broadband.

What we need is networks being put in place to provide the foundations on which we, and on which community groups can build to reach areas this won’t get to. At the end of the day we want to see coverage right across Shetland.”

According to Shetland News, the HIE has already identified 50 “settlements” that could be upgraded with relative ease, which includes Lerwick, Scalloway, Sumburgh and Brae in the Shetland Islands where speeds average 5.5Mbps and 20% get below 2Mbps. A two month consultation, which is expected to end on 13th August 2012, is currently being conducted to help inform the project.

It should be said that the contract winner, BT, and local authorities will be expected to help match-fund the £120m investment to reach around £240m. Earlier predictions suggested that at least £200m would be needed to do the work, although clearly Mr Smith and others fear that a far bigger investment would still be required. They could well be right.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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