News / HIE high speed broadband promise

HIE delegation visiting Shetland (from left to right): area manger Rachel Hunter, board members Mary Bownes, William Swann, Gary Spence, director of regional development Carroll Buxton, board members Jim Royan and Steve Thomson, and chief executive Alex Paterson - Photo: ShetNews

THREE out of four premises in Shetland should have access to “next generation high speed broadband” by the end of 2015, according to Highland and Islands Enterprise.

HIE board members, in Shetland on a two day visit, gave the commitment as part of a £146 million fibre optic infrastructure investment, which should see 84 per cent of the region achieving broadband speeds of more than 25 megabits per second (mbps).

Addressing concerns Shetland would see not see much of the investment, HIE chief executive Alex Paterson said the agency was committed to connect “at least” 75 per cent of the islands.

Shetland’s north isles of Unst, Yell and Fetlar are meanwhile forming a community enterprise to connect them to the fibre optic network currently being installed by council-owned company Shetland Telecom.

Fed up with download speeds of less than 0.5mbps, the Unst Partnership is carrying out a community survey of households and business to establish demand.


Speaking during a meeting of the development committee on Wednesday morning, north isles councillor Gary Cleaver voiced concern over whether the HIE would target his ward.

At the same time, across town in the North Ness’ Solarhus, HIE board members and senior officers gave details of their plans during a press briefing.

Paterson said: “Later this summer we will know the exact roll out of the investment. Our project will deliver superfast broadband to 75 per cent of premises in Shetland. That’s a guarantee.

“The question that arises from that is, what about the other 25 per cent?

“You need to get to 84 per cent first before you can achieve 100 per cent, which means you have to build the basic infrastructure first – that’s 1,200 kilometres of fibre optic cable and 19 subsea crossings.

“In order to get beyond the 75 per cent, there are two avenues available – firstly, there is Community Broadband Scotland, a government initiative who helps communities developing broadband solutions, and in addition to that we have an innovation fund as part of our contract with BT. 

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“That is to recognise that there are places across the region that are too far from the exchanges and the technologies don’t exist yet to get to these places.

“But we know that technologies are being developed and we hope that these become available and could be rolled out during the timeframe of this contract.”

Director of regional development Carroll Buxton said the project was the largest ever investment HIE had managed.

She said BT was carrying out the survey work this summer and was expected to start building the infrastructure during 2014 and 2015.


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