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Community / More funding available to get superfast broadband to all areas

An existing voucher scheme can be topped up with money from the UK Government. Photo: Pixabay

MORE money has been made available to help people and businesses connect to superfast broadband in hard to reach locations, such as many outlying areas and islands in Shetland.

An existing voucher scheme run by the Scottish Government that offers up to £5,000 to properties that will not be reached by the superfast rollout can now be topped up with additional cash from the UK Government.

Small to medium sized businesses have the opportunity to apply for up to £8,500 (£5,000 from the Scottish Government plus £3,500 from the UK Government) of funding while households can get access grant funding worth up to £6,500.

The additional funding has been welcomed by Shetland Islands Council. Marvin Smith, who manages council-owned Shetland Telecom, said getting the fibre network to some properties in Shetland could be very expensive.

“The more money that is made available the better the outcome is likely to be,” he said.

Smith added that people should carefully consider which solution was best for them as this level of funding was unlikely to be made available again, warning against “cashing in” on short-term solutions.

“The important thing for people to understand is that the voucher schemes are going to be available for many months if not years and it is critical that they get the right long term broadband solution,” he said.

“It is unlikely that this level of funding is going to be available again so cashing in vouchers for short term solutions is not a good idea.

“The Scottish Government will be releasing the list of which properties will be getting improved solutions through the main R100 contract with BT early next year. Every single householder in Shetland will then know what (if any) upgrade is planned for them and when that will be delivered.”

The offer means eligible people experiencing the slowest speeds in some of the most remote areas of Scotland will be able to access a voucher that provides the maximum funding from both schemes.

UK minister for digital infrastructure Matt Warman said: “This government is determined to connect every home and business to the fastest broadband available.

“Our new deal with the Scottish Government unlocks extra funding to help rural communities benefit from gigabit-capable connections.”

More information on the UK scheme, including eligibility, can be found at: https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/ while information on the Scottish Government broadband voucher scheme is available at: https://www.scotlandsuperfast.com/how-can-i-get-it/voucher-scheme/.

Shetland Islands Council has recently embarked on a project which will, amongst other things, provide guidance on what Shetland needs to do to ensure it has the best broadband services available to the whole of the islands. That work is due to be completed by the end of February.

Meanwhile, Shetland and Orkney are near the bottom of a new UK ranking for broadband upload speeds compiled by trade website ISPreview a few days ago.

While the quality of broadband is usually measured by its download speeds, domestic upload speeds have become more important during the coronavirus crisis as people are required to work from home using their domestic set-up for office work, such as sharing large files with colleagues and participating in video conferences.

With an average upload speed of 3.6 Mbps Shetland was sixth from the bottom, only slightly better than Orkney.