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Broadband boost for remote island after £250,000 grant

Fair Isle, to the south of mainland Shetland, will soon have superfast connection.

Broadband: Speeds of up to 30mbps have been promised.
Broadband: Speeds of up to 30mbps have been promised. ©btphotosbduk Creative Commons Cropped

One of the most northerly inhabited islands in the UK is to receive superfast broadband after it was given a grant worth almost £250,000.

Fair Isle, to the south of mainland Shetland, which has 33 properties and a population of just over 50, was awarded money from Community Broadband Scotland.

The community is currently served by the Fair Isle BT Exchange Activate which delivers up to 0.5mbps.

Fair Isle Broadband Company will use the £247,000 grant to deliver speeds in excess of 30mbps.

It hopes to boost the local economy and make the island more attractive to potential residents.

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.

"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 advisers 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."

Brian Smith, a 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."

Community Broadband Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative delivered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Deputy first minister John Swinney 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."

Mr Swinney said he now wanted to see the scheme replicated across Scotland.

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