Consultation starts for North Isles community broadband scheme

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Consultation starts for North Isles community broadband scheme

Increasing concerns over broadband provision in the North Isles prompted recent discussions between the Unst and Fetlar Development officers with representatives of Shetland Telecom and Shetland Broadband to see what options were available for an improved Broadband service in the North Isles.  There then followed a meeting of the three North Isles Community Councils and the five Development Companies to see how this information, and further research, could be incorporated into a broadband initiative led by the local communities.

Several issues triggered this initial need for an improved service:

  • The vast disparity in service available
  • The apparent lack of any scheduled improvements
  • Imminent end of Pathfinder (31st March 2014) with no identified replacement
  • Potential end to successful Fetlar wireless pilot scheme unless the new backhaul planned via Skerries and Whalsay is actually built
  • Disadvantage for local residents and businesses

 

The North Isles need high quality, high speed broadband to support and grow our communities and businesses. The only way of providing a long term sustainable solution here is to provide the service using a fibre core linked with a mix of fibre to the home and/or wireless options.

Robert Thomson, Fetlar Development Worker commented, “The principal behind this is to offer the availability of high speed broadband to 100% of all existing properties in the North Isles - seeking to once and for all close the digital divide. Something, which in my opinion is not being addressed satisfactorily by other national schemes.

West Burrafirth community recently reported a successful initiative to provide their community with fast broadband. It’s time for us to do the same. This project will need significant financial investment (ca. £1.5 million for the fibre backbone alone) as well as community engagement.

Steven Spence, local businessman on Unst, stated, "The incredibly poor download and upload speeds provided at the moment hinders my ability to supply customers with music files which causes delays and potentially a loss in business. Some days speeds are as low as 0.14 Mb/s Download, 0.13 Mb/s Upload, 1575 Ping, which makes it almost impossible to access my own website and I find this totally unacceptable. It is extremely frustrating not to be able to communicate with my customers and promote Spencie’s Tunes in the way I would like, in order to develop my business."

Verona Shaw, Local Development Officer for the Unst Partnership added, “Those living and working in the North Isles should have the same opportunity as other Shetlanders and Scottish communities to access necessary online services. The £146m investment project led by HIE, delivered by BT across the highlands and islands, will only ever reach 84% of the population – as we are in the marginalised 16%, we will have to try and provide this for ourselves.”

A questionnaire has been developed with versions for both business customers as well as consumers across the North Isles communities. This is being made available both online and on paper (for those without broadband!) and will allow us to gather vital information on current speeds, coverage, usage etc. alongside future requirements and community support for the scheme.  The results of the questionnaire will be collated and fed back to all participants as well as being used to advise proposals for a potential North Isles Community broadband scheme.

Links to the online questionnaires are available here or at www.unst.org and www.welcometoyell.org  Paper surveys will be available in local shops shortly.

 For further information contact either:

 

Verona Shaw                                                                           Robert Thomson

Local Development Officer                                                           Development Worker

Unst Partnership                                                                        Fetlar Developments Ltd

Tel 01957 711495                                                                       Tel 01957 733369

Email up@unst.org                                                                     Mob 07760 767433

                                                                                                Email robert@fetlar.org