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Community Project Aims Superfast Broadband for Scotland’s Inner Hebrides

Monday, December 15th, 2014 (8:10 am) - Score 1,657

One problem with BT’s recently completed and state aid supported £26.9m subsea fibre optic roll-out project (here) for Scotland’s Western Isles is that not everybody on those islands will benefit from the new connectivity. As a result a new community project has been established to fill in the gaps.

The Argyll Isles Community Broadband Project (aka – GigaPlusArgyll or GigaMull) says that its aim will be to offer “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) to Mull, Iona, Colonsay, Luing, Lismore, Jura, Craignish and parts of Islay (i.e. specifically those areas where BT’s land-based FTTC/P connectivity will not reach).

Crucially BT are said to have already “agreed in discussions with [Highlands and Islands Enterprise] that these areas will be removed from their contract scope” (i.e. the Broadband Delivery UK supported deployments) and the Scottish Government’s Community Broadband Scotland programme is expected to provide around £750,000 to cover 89% of the project’s cost.

GigaMull Statement

Readers may be aware that BT is currently installing new fibre optic cables in the north of the island [Isle of Mull]. This will deliver a service to Dervaig, Tobermory, Craignure and Lochdon, by the end of 2016 using a combination of the new fibre optic cable and existing copper telephone wires.

Other areas of the island are unlikely to benefit from these works and BT have agreed in discussions with HIE that these areas will be removed from their contract scope, subject to a suitable tender being received by GigaPlus Argyll for the provision of services in these areas. This will now allow GigaPlus Argyll to fill that gap by providing a community-owned, island based, superfast broadband service.”

According to an update on the projects website, which was first spotted by Thinkbroadband’s Andrew Ferguson, it’s hoped that a contract to install an appropriate service will be awarded in March 2015 and then the schemes backers perhaps optimistically expect that the first consumer connections could go live during April 2015.

Little is presently known about precisely what approach the project will adopt on the connectivity side, except that it involves “state of the art wireless technology” and this is probably the only economically viable option for such sparse and remote areas. It will also be interesting to see which altnet ISP is willing the take on the task of working in such a difficult environment, where access to a good power supply and poor weather could prove problematic.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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