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Letters / Action is required

The recent threat to telecommunications, and broadband connectivity in particular, whatever its cause, is first and foremost bad for local business.

Unfortunately, local businesses have been unable and unwilling to cooperate since they abandoned a chamber of commerce in Shetland in the 1960s.

Living Lerwick is the nearest we’ve got, but they cannot see beyond their own myopic self-interest, in effect at the sooth-end o’ da street! Me, me, me instead of us, us, us.

As ever, Alistair [Carmichael] and Beatrice [Wishart] are first out of the blocks to comment. Good for them. Words are fine, however action, creatively, is required to address the problem.

A direct satellite earth station connection, maybe even two, gives an alternative, even if just a back-up to copper wire and fibre optic. Certainly there are issues with direct satellite communication – everything is hackable, by organised crime or foreign powers – China and Russia – however given Lockheed Martin, one of the biggest players in the US industrial military complex (IMC) are in town, at the Unst Spaceport, to launch satellites, is it beyond our wit, wisdom and ability to cooperate to get an Earth station on Unst at the spaceport?

Signal from Unst can initial be beamed by microwave, over very short distances to avoid signal drop-off, as per issues beaming Shetland to Orkney – ‘hopping’ down the length of our islands.

From Unst to Yell and Unst to North Mainland, until our tunnels can carry fibre optic cable for signal throughout Shetland. The Westside is perhaps the worst served currently with broadband.

We have seen huge tracks of the mainland excavated to make huge profits for SSE (Viking Energy); it is entirely feasible and affordable to ‘dig-in’ fibre optic from Toft.

Previously, some technocrats have poo-poohed a satellite, earth station approach. While there are indeed technical issues, the ‘against’ lobby is large to do with existing vested interests.

In 1989, two visionaries had the backing of the then MP, Jim Wallace and consideration from BT, for the satellite approach to take over Shetland’s telephony, as well as create an IT based industry on relatively secure Shetland e.g. date security and management.

Short-sightedness and lack of trust within Shetland prevented us have world class connectivity in 1990. Are we going to have to wait another 30 years before the council, Alistair, Beatrice and the business community get around the table with government and get it sorted?

A quick meeting between Westminster (Levelling-up), Holyrood (Scottish Investment Bank ) and our own oil and wind funds, plus a local crowd-funding/share option for a publicly-owned 51 per cent minimum Shetland Telecoms, plus private finance, and our telecoms issues would be a permanent thing of the past.

At least we’d have, de minimus, back up to ‘leaky’ sub-sea fibre optic cables. Over (and out?) to you.

James J Paton



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