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Council / 1,600 homes and businesses unable to connect to superfast broadband

ONE in six Shetland households and businesses are still not receiving “decent” broadband speeds despite multimillion pound investments in the network.

A report from economic development manager Tommy Coutts, presented to Monday’s meeting of the SIC’s development committee, starkly highlights the extent to which Shetland continues to lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to broadband.

The development department is putting together a strategy setting out possible ways to help areas currently without superfast access that will not benefit from the rollout of the Scottish Government’s R100 programme.

A report conducted by consultants Farrpoint last year found that almost 17 per cent of Shetland premises are not connected to a network capable of receiving “decent” broadband with speeds of 10Mbps or higher – compared to under one per cent of the UK as a whole.

Just over 70 per cent receive superfast speeds of 30Mbps or higher, compared to 94 per cent across Scotland and 96 per cent across the UK, with a “similar disparity” when it comes to mobile broadband.

Progress on delivering the north geographic part of the R100 contract was held up after internet service provider Gigaclear mounted a now-resolved legal challenge against the awarding of preferred bidder status to BT for the lucrative £384 million contract, but it is now expected to be largely complete by the end of 2023.

Areas including Yell and Unst will see some improvements, but Coutts’ report identifies that around 1,600 Shetland properties will not be in line for a superfast connection.

Areas missing out include Bressay, Foula, Papa Stour, Skerries, parts of Whalsay and areas in the north, south and west mainland.

It means that, while some parts of the country are enjoying gigabit speeds and 5G signal, many island areas are still “struggling to get superfast and 4G”.

Coutts said the document provided important background as the council seeks to mount a case to the Scottish and UK governments for greater urgency.

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