A project to deliver fast and efficient Internet access to the last remaining properties without superfast broadband on remote Fair Isle aims to attract new residents and boost the local economy.
The community, one of the most northerly inhabited islands in the UK, is one step further to accessing superfast broadband after being awarded funding from Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), a Scottish Government initiative which is delivered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Fair Isle, located between Orkney and Shetland and owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland, has been awarded £247,000 by CBS to deliver superfast broadband to the 33 properties on the island which will not be covered by the multi-million pound Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband roll-out.
Fair Isle Broadband Company (FIBC) and CBS have been working to explore a potential community solution to deliver faster broadband speeds.
The community is presently served by the Fair Isle BT Exchange Activate which delivers up to 0.5mbps.
With the funding from CBS, FIBC hopes to bring a unique and innovative self-sustaining broadband solution to deliver in excess of 30mbps to the community.
Brian Smith, Fair Isle resident who has spearheaded the project, said: “We’re delighted to be receiving funding from Community Broadband Scotland to take our community broadband project to the next stage.
“This will utterly transform the lives of the people who live here, from those running their own businesses, to our local school, our public services and to the tourists who visit.
“I also believe this project will help make Fair Isle a more attractive place to live and help turn around the decline in population bring about a more sustainable and connected community.”
Zoe Laird, Director of Community Broadband Scotland, said: “It’s great to see a close-knit community like Fair Isle working together with Community Broadband Scotland on such an important initiative.
“There is no doubt that this is a challenging project given its location and geography, but where there is a will, there is way and if we can do it on Fair Isle, we can do it anywhere.
“Access to high-quality broadband will bring social and economic benefits to many people who thought they would never have a good connection.
“Thanks to the communities determination and support from project partners we are delighted to provide funding to secure robust superfast broadband which will create more opportunity for people to work, visit, learn and live on the Fair Isle.”
She added: “Our job is to support communities, like Fair Isle, who will not be reached by the main roll-out of superfast broadband and our team of advisors throughout Scotland work to ensure there is no digital divide.
“If your community will not be covered by the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband roll-out don’t hesitate to contact Community Broadband Scotland we are here to help.”
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, said: “This is a fantastic project for Fair Isle, and a great example of what our communities can achieve with CBS support.
“It will deliver a sustainable superfast broadband network to serve some of the most geographically and technically challenging remote rural premises in the country. It is a great example of what CBS can do – supporting communities and harnessing their entrepreneurial flair.
“We now want to see this model replicated right across the country. The tireless work of the community themselves has been crucial and I want to congratulate the Fair Isle Broadband Company, and CBS, for their efforts in developing a high speed broadband network that will create opportunities for people to work, visit, learn and live on the island.”
CBS, with support from the HIE area office, has successfully developed a consortium of project partners with specific “communities of interest” across the Northern islands involving the Fair Isle Development Company, The Shetland Islands Council, Shetland Telecom, NHS Scotland and the Fair Isle Bird Observatory to deliver this project.
Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) is a Scottish Government initiative delivered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) which supports rural and remote communities gain access to faster broadband where the next generation of broadband is not being rolled out.
CBS has so far approved funding for over 62 projects and is actively supporting 90 pipeline community organisations covering over 19,000 premises across Scotland.
More than 115,000 households and businesses across the Highlands and Islands so far have access to their fastest-ever broadband speed through the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband.
New areas seeing roll-out for the first time include Weisdale in Shetland which now boasts the UK’s most northerly cabs.