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Shetland Telecom Boss Slams UK’s Broadband Strategy as “Madness”

Monday, October 29th, 2012 (1:34 am) - Score 2,951

The project manager for Shetland Telecom, which is busy improving internet capacity on the remote Shetland Islands via a new fibre optic link with Scotland, has told ISPreview.co.uk that it’s “complete madness” for the UK government to spend millions attempting to “squeeze more life” out of BT’s existing copper broadband ISP network.

Shetland Telecom, which is managed by Marvin Smith, was originally established by the Shetland Islands Council (SIC) to help implement its £1.1m project to deliver a “resilient, reliable and affordable backhaul” solution to islanders by interconnecting with the undersea SHEFA2 fibre optic cable; this vital link also runs through the Faroe Islands to mainland Scotland (UK).

The scheme, which was granted state aid clearance by the European Union (EU) at the end of 2010, is seen as vital for helping to implement SIC’s plan to deliver superfast broadband services across 90% of the islands by March 2016. Indeed without it they’d only have BT’s dated microwave wireless link to go on, which has proven to be somewhat unsatisfactory.

Since then the new network has recently begun to connect its first homes via two community broadband ISPs and now even BT plans to make use of the infrastructure, which should finally bring faster and more stable internet access to many more premises on the islands (here).

However, deploying a new fibre optic infrastructure into such a remote community is not without challenge, yet Shetland Telecom has shown that it can be done. Suffice to say that we wanted to know more about what the project has achieved and how its manager, Marvin Smith, perceives the UK’s wider strategy for rolling out faster broadband services.

The Interview

Q1. Can you tell us a little about how and what you’re currently doing to help improve broadband connectivity on the Shetland Islands?


Shetland Telecom was started as a project by Shetland Islands Council about 2 years ago. For about 10 years now the Council has had a focus on improving telecoms services in Shetland. Communications with the outside world is of vital importance when you live and work on a rock in the North Sea.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Avatar Martyn Dews says:

    Excellent interview, the answer to Q7 especially stands out. Constant tussles with BT is not good for public health! 🙂

    Best of luck to Marvin and the Shetland Telecom team.

  2. Avatar FibreFred says:

    I don’t think its a case of homeowners “taking ownership” of the last mile that is needed, not sure how that would actually work. Its just that they need to pay for it

    With the FTTC rollout the fibre spines from the exchanges will be close to most people’s streets. So all that is needed is for the homeowner to pay for that stretch using FTTP on demand (should they wish) I don’t see a problem with that.

    Surely people can’t expect FTTP to be installed for free?

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      I don’t call a billion pounds subsidy “free”.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Is that billion pounds being used to deliver FTTP everywhere? No, which is why your comment makes no sense

    3. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      If only that were the case. Openreach seem intent on avoiding extending the fibre spine as much as possible.

      In fact proximity to the fibre spine appears to be one of the biggest factors they are considering, at a similar level to the homes passed by the cabinet.

      Wonder if they’re charging themselves several quid per metre for access to their own ducts…

  3. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    Top man…

  4. Avatar TheFacts says:

    The last news update on their website is last December. What are they actually doing?

    ‘All things being equal we will connect the first real user in February 2012.’

  5. Avatar Marvin says:

    Apologies, the website is basically a holding page. The new website is due to go live by the end of November.

    The network itself is now live.

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      A telco that cannot run a website…

  6. Avatar Marvin says:

    Shetland Telecom only employs two people so the website (which is being built now) is low priority. We use facebook more regularly. Feel free to ‘like’.

  7. Avatar joey@hotmail.com says:

    What the hell do SHEEP need internet access for. Day trading in Wool futures?

    1. Avatar Marvin says:


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