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Community / Isles’ enterprise and innovation during lockdown hailed – but better broadband would help

Shetland is the worst place in the UK for working from home when it comes to average internet speed, a new study claims

SHETLAND’s “enterprise and innovation” during the coronavirus pandemic has been praised – but it could be even more impressive if the isles had better broadband connectivity.

That is the view of Marvin Smith of Shetland Telecom, the arms length organisation set up by Shetland Islands Council to develop telecommunications in the isles.

His comments came after Shetland was named in a new study as the worst place in the UK for working from home because of the slow average broadband speed.

Estate agent comparison company GetAgent claimed the average download speed in Shetland sits at 21Mbps, with an average monthly cost of £1.49 per Mbps.

This means it ranks worst for broadband for home working, with Argyll Bute (22Mbps), Mid Devon (22.1Mbps) and Orkney (22.2Mbps) next in line.

Many people in more remote parts of Shetland, though, would welcome anything close to 21Mbps, with speeds varying across the isles.

At the other end of the scale Wandsworth in London has an average speed of 95.1Mbps, and a monthly cost of 33p per Mbps.

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of people in Shetland have currently no choice but to work from home after social distancing rules were enforced in the UK one month ago.

People are asked to work from home where possible, with entire companies and council departments, for instance, leaving the office.

Outside of the workplace the internet has been used by some in Shetland as a creative outlet during the lockdown, from music performances to live quizzes.

There is also an emphasis on online learning for young people as schools remain closed.

The study, however, does not take into account upload speeds, which can be important for video conferencing.

On Wednesday (23 April) Shetland’s councillors held their first virtual meeting, with most elected members joining in through video.

While Shetland may not perform too well for its broadband connectivity there are certainly other factors in its favour when it comes to working from home, such as the views and quick access to the great outdoors.

Smith said that the survey does not appear to be particularly detailed and “misses out some critical elements”.

However, he said it will not come as a surprise to anyone that working from home in parts of Shetland can be “extremely difficult due to poor broadband”.

“There have been a number of government interventions and schemes which have either failed or have only partially helped to take broadband infrastructure in Shetland to levels which many other parts of the country take for granted,” Smith continued.

“For over 10 years the council’s ambitions for better broadband for the whole of Shetland has been stymied due to promises made and not delivered, while the most meaningful and impactful developments have come from the council taking the situation into its own hands.

“Shetland’s enterprise and innovation during this current situation has been impressive. Imagine what we could be achieving if we had the proper infrastructure.”