Superfast knitting met superfast broadband today (Wednesday 15 October) in the Shetland Islands as the community marked the arrival of next generation fibre broadband to Scotland's first island community.
Shetland’s Hazel Tindall who holds the title of world’s fastest knitter joined Highlands and Islands Enterprise, BT and community representatives to unveil what is currently Scotland's most northerly fibre broadband cabinet at Böd of Gremista in Lerwick.
Draped in da muckle gravit* for the occasion, the cabinet is one of 17 now open to orders for fibre based broadband 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.
The partnership programme is being delivered in the region by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and private sector partners BT. Funding partners include the Scottish Government, HIE, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and BT.
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.”
One business in Lerwick now able to access the services is The Spiders Web, which sells traditional hand knitted garments. Owner Barbara Mitchell, commented: “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 Hazel Tindall, commented: “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.”
*Da Muckle Gravit, at around 35m, is Shetland’s longest scarf. With the first stitches being cast on by Hazel Tindall in 2005, many local people and visitors have played a part in knitting it, each creating their own unique section. It makes regular appearances at local schools and events in Shetland to promote the art of knitting.
- About HIE
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is an economic and community development agency delivering the Scottish Government’s economic strategy across a region which covers more than half of Scotland.
HIE, as part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, is leading on one of the most complex fibre broadband deployment projects in the UK. We aim to deliver services to 84% of premises across the Highlands and Islands by 2016, and are working to find ways to reach the remaining 16%. As part of that we manage Community Broadband Scotland which works with communities across Scotland to help them find sustainable ways to get faster broadband.
Equally important is our work to provide specialist online and face-to-face support for businesses and communities to help them maximise the benefits of digital connectivity.
You can visit our website at http://www.hie.co.uk follow us on Twitter @HIEScotland and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/highlandsandislandsenterprise
- About BDUK
Superfast Britain is a UK Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:
• £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
• £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
• £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services
Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.
For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk
- About BT
BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of five lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, BT Wholesale and Openreach. For the year ended 31 March 2014, BT Group’s reported revenue was £18,287m with reported profit before taxation of £2,312m. British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. For more information, visit www.btplc.com