News / Shetland will miss UK broadband targets

Photo Shetland Telecom

SHETLAND looks set to fall well behind the rest of the UK as the government ramps up spending on superfast broadband.

The UK government recently announced an additional £250 million on top of the £1.2 billion being spent on rolling out high speed connections to 90 per cent of the country by 2017.

However it looks like just 60 per cent of Shetland households and businesses are likely to receive download speeds of up to 30 megabits per second (mbps) within the next four years.

Now northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael is calling for early meetings with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to ensure Shetland gets a better deal on broadband.

Last week the National Audit Office declared that the government’s Broadband UK (BDUK) project to connect nine tenths of the country by May 2015 was hopelessly overambitious.

The target date has now been revised to March 2017, but the Highlands and Islands remain one of four areas unlikely to reach such levels of saturation.


Shetland has been promised 75 per cent of the islands will be have fast connections, but these will largely be restricted to Lerwick, Brae, Scalloway and Sandwick.

Yet even that figure has been deemed over optimistic by Shetland Telecom, the council-owned internet service provider (ISP).

The company’s Guy Smith said only last month HIE could not say which parts of the islands would benefit from the new high speed network.

“Our belief is that it will be largely, if not entirely, the mainland of Shetland that receives it,” he said.

“There are some areas in the north and west that won’t get, it and the only island might be Yell.”

Smith said the 75 per cent figures was at best “misleading”, because those households would only be connected to an exchange capable of delivering fast broadband.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


“People who live in somewhere like Sandwick and are reasonably close to the exchange will be able to upgrade to BT Infinity, which with a bit of luck might give them 30 meg download speeds.

“That would realistically be what about 50 to 60 per cent of Shetland will get, but they will mainly be in the main population centres.”

That will certainly not include most of the outer islands as no subsea cables are to be laid between them, unlike the western isles where 19 such connections are to be installed.

Communications giant BT have won all the government contracts to install BDUK infrastructure, raising concerns that they are only investing where they can expect the greatest return.

UK culture secretary Maria Miller has called a meeting of small scale ISPs to address the problem of connecting the final 10 per cent of addresses in the most remote areas.


But with BT snapping up all the most easily accessibly locations, there are fears it will be too expensive for anyone to connect the rest of the country.

Meanwhile due to lack of funds Shetland Islands Council is holding back on its own policy commitment to roll out Shetland Telecom fibre optic connections to the whole of the isles, which is currently estimated to cost £5 million.

This week Alistair Carmichael MP said he would be pressing ministers and officials for details on how the extra £250 million will be spent.

“We need to know that it is sufficient both to do the work and to do it within the previously identified timescale,” he said. 

“I am wanting early meetings with all the bodies concerned, especially Highlands and Islands Enterprise to satisfy myself that they have the tools to do the job properly now.

“We have got to stop thinking of broadband and other connectivity issues as being some sort of luxury. It is as important to the future sustainability of our communities as having a supply of water or electricity.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.