Two of the UK’s most westerly island communities are now among the best connected too – as new full fibre broadband networks go live in the Outer Hebrides/Na h-Eileanan Siar.
Grimsay is a tiny island roughly three miles long and half again in width, joined to North Uist and Benbecula by a causeway. A single-track road links most of the island’s small croft and fishing settlements together. It’s a place of clear water and white sands, with big skies and long horizons.
Now, every single one of the 113 households on Grimsay is able to access ultrafast broadband, while 100 miles north on Great Bernera – off the north-west coast of Lewis and linked to the main island by a road bridge – all 220 households can connect.
The two island communities have 100 per cent access to future-proof, full fibre networks built by engineers from Openreach through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, led in the area by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Built using 90KM of new fibre cables, it’s capable of carrying services at 1Gbps – around 18.5 times faster than the UK’s current average of 54 Mbps. Until now, the communities have been connected to the outside world by a wireless connection over an independent radio network, with a top download speed of around 2Mbps.
Joe FitzPatrick, Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, said: “Many people living here are engaged in traditional industries, with the island renowned for the quality of the seafood caught off its shores. Full fibre not only enables local industries to engage fully online, but future-proofs the island for economic development and growth. In a world where technology is a main driver, good connectivity levels the playing field, creating new opportunities and stemming depopulation. It will also undoubtedly be of great benefit to residents in the area when it comes to healthcare. Programmes such as Attend Anywhere gives patients the ability to have virtual appointments with healthcare professionals via their laptop, tablet or mobile – a service the residents of Grimsay and Great Bernera can now access, thanks to the high quality and future-proofed digital infrastructure delivered by the DSSB programme.
“However, we recognise that not everyone has access to such services and that more must be done. This is why, despite the reserved nature of telecoms in the United Kingdom, we have made the commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband access in Scotland and backed that commitment with the substantial investment of £600 million in the procurement phase for the Reaching 100% programme,” FitzPatrick concluded.