Remote islanders connect to ultrafast broadband

Two of the UK’s most westerly island communities are now the best connected as new full fibre broadband networks go live in the Outer Hebrides/Na h-Eileanan Siar.

Every one of the 113 households on Grimsay, a small island, is able to access ultrafast broadband, while 100 miles north on Great Bernera – off the north-west coast of Lewis and linked to the main island by a road bridge – all 220 households can connect.

The two island communities have 100 per cent access to full fibre networks built by engineers from Openreach through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, led in the area by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Built using 90KM of new fibre cables, it’s capable of carrying services at 1Gbps – around 18.5 times faster than the UK’s current average of 54 Mbps2.

Until now, the communities have been connected to the outside world by a wireless connection 

Joe FitzPatrick, Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, said: “Many people living here are engaged in traditional industries, with the island renowned for the quality of the seafood caught off its shores. 

"Full fibre not only enables local industries to engage fully online, but future-proofs the island for economic development and growth. In a world where technology is a main driver, good connectivity levels the playing field, creating new opportunities and stemming depopulation.

“It will also undoubtedly be of great benefit to residents in the area when it comes to healthcare. Programmes such as Attend Anywhere gives patients the ability to have virtual appointments with healthcare professionals via their laptop, tablet or mobile – a service the residents of Grimsay and Great Bernera can now access."

Robert Thorburn, Openreach’s partnership director for Scotland, said: “When we started planning the Digital Scotland rollout, Western Isles was hands down the most difficult place to build. It has the lowest population density in the UK and many communities are comprised of remote and scattered households.

“This project is a game-changer for the people of the Western Isles, with a lasting legacy for the future. In a place like Grimsay, technology is truly life-changing – opening up markets and innovation for businesses and connecting islanders to each other, the world and vital services.

“There’s more to do, but if we can bring full fibre broadband to a scattered community like Grimsay then it can be done anywhere.”

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