Enterprising villagers in a remote west coast community have taken matters into their own hands to connect to the digital world.
Residents in Drimnin, on the coast between the Isle of Mull and Ardnamurchan, have been struggling to work in the area due to a broadband service they describe as “like something from the dark ages”.
Known by some as “the end of the road”, Drimnin is home to 57 properties at the end of 12 miles of single-track road from Lochaline, on the Morvern peninsula. It had not been included in any plans for the roll-out of broadband, so locals have had access only to an unreliable satellite connection more than 30 times slower than terrestrial systems. This meant activities such as online banking, watching TV on catch-up or installing computer updates were often impossible.
But after joining forces with a local fish farming company, the villagers have found a way to solve the problem – do it themselves. In collaboration with the newly formed Drimnin Broadband Community Group, they have overcome geographical challenges to deliver broadband via a complex system of wireless radio links and repeater masts.
Scottish Sea Farms invested £55,000 towards getting the infrastructure in place, with additional grants of £12,500 from Morvern Community Trust and £10,000 from the National Lottery Fund. Tobermory Harbour Association has also provided support, while householders and businesses are sharing the cost of line rental.
Now the whole area is enjoying faster and more reliable internet.
David Campbell, one of the group’s founding members, said: “Drimnin is the sort of community where we do lots of things for ourselves but this particular project has been hugely popular with everyone in the village. The whole community pulled together to make it happen.”
Rhonda Newsham is manager of Drimnin Estate, a working farm that also offers holiday accommodation.
She said: “We’ve gone from a situation where we had a monthly wi-fi allowance that guests very often used up within the first week, meaning we had to buy costly top-ups, to being able to advertise that we have unlimited free wi-fi.”
Annabel Thomas, founder of the Ncn’ean Distillery: “Since first opening our doors in 2017, we’ve struggled with even the most basic tasks such as taking card payments. Now we’re able to do online banking, video conferencing, screen sharing – all the latest advances that make running a business a whole lot easier.”