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New IT network

SHETLAND Islands Council has completed the installation of a new IT network at 60 different sites.

The new system replaces its “Pathfinder” contract with Vodafone, which ended on 20 March, to provide digital connections to SIC properties outside Lerwick.

Pathfinder had supplied connections to offices, schools, care homes, ferry terminals and other local authority properties outwith the town.

But to extend the contract would have cost around £1.3 million, potentially increasing to £2 million. Council leader Gary Robinson welcomed the completion of the £400,000 replacement.

He said: “Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved, we now have a viable, cost effective network in place, flexible enough to take advantage of any new opportunities that might come in the future.

“Given the enormous costs we were being faced with to pay for a replacement from our own funds, this is a tremendous outcome for the council.”

With no government funding for an extension or replacement, the council hatched a plan involving the use of commercial masts to provide network connections, and a combination of satellite technology and ADSL to hook up some remoter sites.

The fibre optic cable installed by Shetland Telecom has provided connections for a number of larger sites, and local community broadband schemes are also being used.

Lancaster based firm TNP (The Networking People) worked in partnership with council staff to design, configure and install the replacement network.

The council said it had been an “extremely challenging project to deliver, involving new connections to 60 sites from Unst to Fair Isle, and Foula to Skerries”.

Poor weather in early 2014 hampered the project, while legal issues mean Dunrossness Primary School has to make do with a temporary connection until after the Easter holidays.

While teething troubles are “almost inevitable”, staff are working with users to ensure their service is “as good as it possibly can be”.

Outgoing ICT manager Stuart Moncrieff told the executive committee last week that the transition to a new network had been “pretty seamless”.

He hailed it as a “fantastic achievement” and thanked the staff involved for doing a “tremendous” job.