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Communities now wired up

Remote Scots now enjoying ultrafast broadband

Pieter Bakker

Pieter Bakker: ‘massive difference’

Two of the most remote communities in the UK now have some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country.

Sixty households and businesses in the Sutherland hamlet of Altnaharra have been wired up with full-fibre cables giving them access to up to 330Mbps.

The first ultrafast fibre services have also gone live in Skerray.

As part of the ultrafast pilots, local people and workers from the Altnaharra Estate have helped Openreach to bury around 4,800 metres of cable.

Until now, due to the high costs of bringing faster broadband to very small communities in remote areas, many of the villagers have been forced to accept some of Scotland’s slowest connections of around 0.5Mbps.

One of the first to benefit is the Altnaharra Hotel, a 17th century hotel, together with cottages set near the shore of Loch Naver in remote Highland countryside.

Hotel manager Becy Robertson said: “Our original broadband was truly snail pace at around 0.53Mbps – we had a hub in the office and guests would sit in the library beside us trying to get connected. We’d have a group of cyclists all trying to update their online blogs, while office staff could not even print a menu.

“So when we had the big surprise that we were going to be getting ultrafast, it was Christmas all over. We now have fibre in the office with a download speed of 80Mbps and upload of 20Mbps and it makes a big, big difference.”

Pieter Bakker, estate manager of the 36,600-acre Altnaharra Estate, agrees. With a wide range of interests from environmental land management, renewables and holiday home rentals to forestry, farming, deer stalking and fishing, the Estate is a vital source of employment for the surrounding Sutherland community.

Mr Bakker said: “The difference the fast connection has made is massive. 

“The arrival of high-speed broadband has truly changed our future in Altnaharra – and will assist in moving our business and the community into the 21st century.”

Openreach has funded the two pilot Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) projects in Altnaharra and Skerray, building fibre from new nodes off main fibre spines direct to local properties, with both communities helping with digging work.

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said: “We promised the people of Altnaharra and Skerray their new ultrafast services by this autumn, and we’ve delivered to the majority in Altnaharra ahead of schedule and are on track in Skerray.

“They’ll see their internet connections rocket from some of the slowest speeds in Scotland to some of the fastest, and it’s great to hear that the first local residents and businesses are already making use of the new, ultrafast network.

 “We’re 100 per cent committed to using our digital expertise and innovation to bring high speed services to as many remote communities as possible, including supporting the Scottish Government in their ambition to reach every premises in Scotland.”

During the installations, Openreach is testing new equipment designed to bring down the costs of delivering Fibre-to-the-Premises, such as the Ditch Witch – a digger which provides a quicker, more efficient way to bury armoured fibre cable.

On the back of the work in Sutherland, these techniques are now being used elsewhere in the UK. 


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