SCHOOLS and health centres in the North Isles could see high-speed internet connections installed in the next 12 months thanks to cash from the UK Government.
Shetland Islands Council confirmed on Tuesday that it has been successful in securing almost £2m from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to extend the council’s existing fibre network to Yell and Unst.
The £1.91m will pay for a network of full fibre broadband connections between public sector premises across Yell and Unst, including council buildings like schools and care centres, and NHS Shetland premises, such as health centres, and open up possibilities for video linked working such as online learning and telemedicine.
The money comes from the Local Full Fibre Network Challenge Fund.
SIC development committee chairman Alastair Cooper said: “This is good news for the North Isles, which have historically suffered from poor broadband and connectivity, while other parts of Shetland have seen upgrades.
“This is a positive improvement for public services in Yell and Unst, which lays a foundation of connectivity that can be extended to domestic and business premises in the future.”
The project is mainly focussed on connecting public sector buildings for corporate purposes and is “aligned” with the Scottish Government’s Reaching 100 per cent (R100) Programme in Unst and Yell, which expects to extend superfast access to all premises in the area.
The provision of core infrastructure to public premises will make connections to homes and businesses in the area easier, through the creation of ‘hubs’ which can be used to extend connectivity in the future and this infrastructure will be available to bidders to the Scottish Government’s £600m procurement.
The network route will extend the existing network from Graven to Mossbank and Toft and onwards to Yell and Unst.
The eventual route will connect to all public buildings and major settlements in Yell and Unst with gigabit capable fibre optic connections.
It is hoped that the project will allow for a technical solution to improve the council’s broadband links to Fetlar in the near future.
UK digital minister Margot James said: “We’re building a Britain that’s fit for the future, and our plans for a national full fibre broadband network underpin our modern Industrial Strategy.
“This £1.91m boost for gigabit speeds in the North Isles will build on the great work already being done by Shetland Islands Council and I congratulate them on their successful bid.”