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Connectivity / Papa Stour set to receive two sources of high-speed broadband

Photo: Shetland News

THE UK Government confirmed plans to provide high-speed broadband via satellite to Papa Stour yesterday (Monday) – but BT is also looking to deliver connectivity later in the year.

Technology minister John Whittingdale announced at London Tech Week that the connection will be available in Papa Stour within a matter of days.

Work installing a specialist panel began yesterday and is expected to be finished and connected to a low earth orbit satellite by the end of the week.

Engineers installing the mount for the satellite comms panel. Photo: Clarus

Whittingdale said on Monday: “Our announcements today will help ensure that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to high-speed broadband and other digital services that they need to thrive in the 21st century.

“Improving Papa Stour’s connectivity is a major milestone in our efforts to close the digital divide as it transforms the lives of the island’s residents and visitors.”

There are currently seven permanent residents on the island but additionally several people who live on the mainland have crofts in Papa Stour.

Visitors could also benefit from the connection.

John Anderson from East Burrafirth regularly does boat tours to the isle.

He welcomes the broadband plans, saying: “It’s a great idea, it might attract new blood to Papa Stour…good quality broadband, it might give a new lease of life, people could come to Papa Stour and work from home.”

One of the island’s full-time residents, Andy Holt, thinks the connection will be “worthwhile” but that more needs to be done to encourage people to live there.

“I think it’ll be handy for residents and probably marginally beneficial for tourists because I gather it’s also going to be in the waiting room to begin as well as the school,” he said.

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“More importantly, will it be an attraction for younger people to want to move here? I think it would probably require more than just stepped-up broadband.”

Engineers installing OneWeb’s satellite comms panel, marking Europe’s first commercial deployment. Photo: Clarus

However, it is not the only high-speed connection set to come to Papa Stour.

Walls and Sandness community councillor Jane Puckey told Shetland News:

“British Telecom have already done a survey in Papa Stour and are looking to put appropriate antenna on the BT mast to provide a radio link to the fibre optic cable in Sandness. Their aim is for residents to be connected in the autumn of this year.

“At the same time the government is funding a scheme whereby high-speed broadband will be provided to Papa Stour via low earth orbit satellites. Installation of this scheme is taking place in Papa Stour this week.

“Once both these schemes are in place folk in the isle will not only benefit from high-speed broadband connection but they will also have choice of provider, BT or OneWeb.”

A BT spokesperson confirmed to Shetland News that the company’s plans are still going ahead.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has been approached for comment.

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