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Scottish broadband plan should help community projects get connected

Remote Scottish communities need high speed networks that community broadband schemes can link to, says the head of Shetlands Telecom.

Marvin Smith believes an official £200m estimate for covering the Highlands and Islands will fall significantly short of the amount required to connect the region.

He told Shetland News: “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.

Scottish broadband plan should help community projects get connected

“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.”

The Shetlands were recently plugged into the Gigabit-speed SHEFA-2 undersea optical fibre connection, and the Shetland Islands Council aims to provide at least 24Mbps across the islands by March 2016.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise has been given £120m to connect the region, and is hoping the European Union, local authorities and business partners such as BT to boost its funds.

HIE is currently running a consultation on its plans, and hopes to start the superfast broadband rollout in 2013, with a target of at least 2Mbps by 2015 for all.

Most of the region currently experiences an average speed of around 512kbps and the capital, Inverness, gets just 2.5Mpbs compared to a UK average of 7.5Mbps.

The Shetlands already has community broadband groups involved with its own plan, such as Quasarnet, which is working to deliver fibre to the home broadband to several villages.

BT has 34 telephone exchanges in the Shetlands, none of them unbundled, so the best broadband available is up-to-8Mbps with BT as the only provider. 

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