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Scotlands North Isles Could Build a Faster Community Broadband Network

Saturday, Aug 17th, 2013 (8:27 am) - Score 932

Broadband connectivity on Shetland might be gradually improving, thanks to a new undersea fibre optic link and investment, but many residents of the smaller surrounding islands (Yell, Unst and Fetlar) continue to suffer from slow connectivity (sub-1Mbps) and BT has yet to clarify its commitment. The solution could be a new community initiative.

According to The Shetland Times, several community meetings were held on each of the three islands this week where the issue of poor local broadband connectivity was discussed. The events were apparently organised by Fetlar Developments Ltd, the Unst Partnership and the three local councils.

It’s understood that both people and businesses alike offered broad support for a D.I.Y style approach. The influence of B4RN’s community-built and ultrafast fibre optic (FTTH) network in Lancashire (England) was clearly recognised by attendants.

Elsewhere Fetlar already benefits from a pilot wireless broadband network, which makes use of Shetland’s new fibre optic capacity, but this is due to end in March 2014 when funding runs out and thus a longer term solution is required.

MSP Tavish Scott said:

There is no doubt that poor or unreliable internet access constrains business and prevents consumers using the internet to its full potential.

A huge 75% said internet access was critical or important to them, many are not satisfied with current services. . .sadly, these findings do not come as a surprise to anyone trying to access the internet in the North Isles.

The government is continuing to invest in improving broadband across Scotland but the central point is that new money must be targeted on areas where the current service is somewhere between poor and non-existent.”

Making use of the community would certainly slash the cost of building a new fibre optic link (civil works are usually the biggest investment) and the Project Manager of Shetland Telecom, Marvin Smith, specifically noted that it could cost in the high hundreds of thousands of pounds but that this would be massively reduced if ordinary people helped out.

But for now the idea is still in its early stages and working groups are slowly being established to help plan the way forward. A clear strategy and costing would still appear to be someway off and there will always be some work that even community members might struggle to do without professional assistance.

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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