THE long-awaited arrival of superfast broadband in the Shetland Islands has been greeted with some superfast knitting.
Hazel Tindall, who holds the title as the world’s fastest knitter, was draped in a 35-metre scarf as she helped mark the arrival of next generation fibre broadband to the islands.
Da Muckle Gravit is Shetland’s longest scarf. The first stitches were cast on by Mrs Tindall in 2005 and many local people and visitors have played a part in knitting it, each creating their own unique section.
The superfast broadband is to be delivered to over 4,000 businesses and homes in Lerwick, Quarff and Sumburgh.
They form part of a £146m publicly funded fibre network which is rolling out across the Highlands and Islands as part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme.
Stuart Robertson, Director of Digital Highlands and Islands, said: “This first phase of roll-out on the Shetland Islands is opening up fibre based services to one in three homes and businesses in one swoop. It’s a great start.
“The Shetland Islands have links across the world in leading sectors including energy, creative industries, tourism and food and drink. Access to better broadband can open up opportunities for business growth across all these sectors, and at home makes for more flexibility in every day life.
“Having now pushed through almost all of Shetland’s existing cabinets our next steps are to build the new networks and cabinets needed to reach customers currently connected directly to their exchanges.”
Bill Murphy, BT managing director, Next Generation Broadband, said: “This is truly an historic day for Shetland and the Highlands and Islands. High-speed broadband will bring social and economic benefits not just to the Shetland Islands, but to the wider Highlands and Islands as well.
“Fast, fibre broadband is key to the economies of our island communities and will become, in its own way, just as vital as the sea and air links that islanders rely on for transport and trade.”
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The digital landscape of Scotland is undergoing a tremendous transformation and I’m delighted that our rollout of superfast broadband has now reached the Shetland Islands.
“More than 4000 local homes and businesses can now access a fast and reliable service, providing a welcome boost to the local economy.”
The partnership programme is being delivered in the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and private sector partners BT.
Funding partners include the Scottish Government, HIE, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and BT.
One business in Lerwick now able to access the services is The Spiders Web, which sells traditional hand knitted garments.
Owner Barbara Mitchell said: “Prior to the internet we had to rely on travelling to trade shows to make sales.
“But, a number of years ago about ten local firms got together to set up a mail order catalogue, which then led to one of the very first websites on Shetland. The introduction of faster broadband is definitely a benefit to local people.”
The next phase of work in Shetland will start in the second half of 2015. It will connect more people in Sumburgh, Cunningsburgh and Lerwick and will also take services out to a number of new communities including Voe, Symbister, Brae, Scalloway, and Sandwick.
In addition, the Shetland geography provides the perfect opportunity to look at how cutting edge technologies might help further extend coverage, particularly to smaller island communities.
Lifelong knitter Mrs Tindall said: “Without being online I simply couldn’t run my business. It allows me to respond to worldwide interest in traditional knitting and to provide downloadable patterns and knitting advice. The introduction of fibre-based broadband is great news for Shetland.”