Project will deliver broadband to rural communities
Residents and businesses in a rural area of the Highlands and Islands will soon have access to high speed broadband for the first time thanks to an innovative collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands.
A community broadband network has been set up to provide fast and reliable internet access to communities in and around the Small Isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna. Experts erected a series of wireless masts to connect Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI on Skye, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, to locations around the isles which had previously had little or no internet access.
The community broadband network is based on a scaled-up version of domestic wireless broadband technology. It was developed from a research collaboration between the University of the Highlands and Islands and the University of Edinburgh which demonstrated the technology in the Loch Hourn area. A community interest company, HebNet, has now come on board to help extend the provision around the Small Isles. It is hoped the project will be completed by September.
Jem Taylor, head of strategy and development for the university's IT team, said: "We embarked on this project as it aligns with the university's mission of developing sustainable businesses and communities and we hope that, in due course, it will help us to provide high speed broadband to some of our most isolated learning centres.
"Commercial internet providers have so far failed to find an economical way to reach these remote, sparsely populated and often mountainous regions, meaning many are being left behind in the digital revolution. Now we've established the model works, it has the potential to be used in other rural communities around the world."
Simon Helliwell, chair of HebNet, said: "HebNet was formed to distribute fast, economic and reliable broadband to Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna and Knoydart. It has proved a great success and currently serves over 100 households in this remote part of Scotland.
"Thus far, we have been using backhaul from nearby mainland BT exchanges, but we've recently been offered much greater bandwidth by UHI from the premises at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. This will give us an unparalleled opportunity to have broadband speeds as fast as anywhere in the country which will be of enormous benefit to the communities served, both socially and economically. We have also been offered assistance with the cost of this from Marine Harvest who operate a number of fish farms in the area."
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