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North isles broadband meetings next week

A MAJORITY of people living in Shetland’s north isles are in favour of setting up a community enterprise to drive forward better broadband provisions in Yell, Unst and Fetlar.

As the results of the north isles broadband survey have been made public on local websites, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said government money should be made available to those still without any access to broadband.

The survey reveals that a massive 75 percent of those who responded said that internet access was critical or important to them.

Yet four out of ten businesses in the area have to cope with a download speed of less than 0.5Mbps, while seven out of ten businesses receive an upload speed of less than 0.4Mbps.

The findings coincide with a UK wide study that shows how the broadband gap between town and country continues to widen despite significant improvements to an average of 9.9Mbps in rural areas.

Scott is now urging local residents to attend a series of public meetings in Yell, Unst and Fetlar to hear the detailed findings and to discuss a way forward.

The meetings, hosted by local community councils and development companies are at:

  • Baltasound Junior High School, 12 August, starting at 7pm;
  • Mid Yell hall, 13 August, 7pm;
  • and Fetlar hall, 15 August, 7.45pm. 

Representatives from Shetland Telecom will also attend these meetings.

The MSP said: “There is no doubt that poor or unreliable internet access constrains business and prevents consumers using the internet to its full potential.  

“A huge 75 per cent said internet access was critical or important to them, many are not satisfied with current services and most would like a faster service to help better access training, media and shopping.

“Sadly, these findings do not come as a surprise to anyone who has spoken with those trying to access the internet in the north isles, as I did recently in Westsandwick in Yell.  Frustrated locals there told me they have hardly any service whatsoever.  

“The government is continuing to invest in improving broadband across Scotland but the central point is that new money must be targeted on areas where the current service is somewhere between poor and non-existent.”

Meanwhile, his Westminster colleague and northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael has reiterated the coalition government’s commitment to ensuring that superfast broadband reaches rural communities.

He said the department for culture, media and sport was working with the Scottish government to ensure that the hardest to reach communities were not left behind.

“The £250 million of new capital investment that DCMS announced last month will help to ensure that infrastructure is in place so that rural communities across the UK can benefit from the advances in technology,” he said.

However, only last month the National Audit Office said that targets to connect 75 per cent of households and businesses in Shetland to high speed broadband by 2017 was not achievable.

And even if high speed broadband comes to Shetland’s centres of population in Lerwick, Scalloway, Brae and Sandwick, it is highly unlikely that the north isles will see any of it.

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