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One in three sign up for superfast broadband on Scilly Isles

Tuesday, May 12th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Almost a third of homes and business on the Isles of Scilly are already using high-speed fibre broadband, just six months after it arrived on the islands, it has been announced.

Figures from Superfast Cornwall suggest that the take-up of superfast fibre broadband is among one of the highest in the UK, with one in three premises already using it.

The arrival of superfast broadband on the Isles of Scilly came in November after an ambitious project that involved diverting part of a 939km undersea cable between Cornwall and Spain, which had remained unused on the seabed since 2006.

Previously, the 2,200 residents of Scilly had relied on phone and broadband services provided by radio link between Lands End and the islands, which lie 28 miles off the south-west tip of Cornwall.

Thanks to the multi-million pound project – part of the £132m Superfast Cornwall initiative between the European Regional Development Fund, BT and Cornwall Council – all five inhabited islands on Scilly now have access to fibre broadband.

The highest percentage take-up is on the island of St Agnes, where 21 of the 24 premises are using fibre broadband.

Some 450 premises across the five islands are now connected, according to Superfast Cornwall.

Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director for Cornwall Development Company, the economic development company of Cornwall Council, said: “This is wonderful news and a great endorsement of the considerable engineering work and investment undertaken to make superfast broadband available to the Isles of Scilly.

“The people of these beautiful islands have grabbed the huge opportunities offered by superfast broadband with both hands and are really making the most of this exciting technology.

“Their fantastic response demonstrates the great significance of this exciting project.”

'Astonishing achievement'

Ranulf Scarbrough, Superfast Cornwall programme director for BT, added: “In percentage terms, the take up of high-speed fibre broadband on the isles of Scilly is already amongst the highest for any local authority area in the UK.

“This is an astonishing achievement when you consider the relatively short time – just six months – it has been available on Scilly.

“Superfast broadband is providing a major boost for an area famed for its beauty and remoteness.

“This exciting technology is undoubtedly one of the most important investments undertaken this century for a community in a unique Atlantic location, which relies on its links with the outside world.”

He said local businesses can rely on high-speed broadband to work more efficiently and find new customers, whilst households are benefiting from improved learning and entertainment opportunities.

The announcement comes just days after BT announced its best-ever quarter for customers connecting to the Openreach fibre network, which is now available to more than three quarters of all UK premises.

Around 1.5m new customers connected to the network in the past year, taking the total number from 2.7m to 4.2m – putting the take-up of fibre at 19%, a figure Openreach CEO Joe Garner hailed as a success.

Fast and stable

Welcoming the Scilly Isles’ high take-up figure, Amanda Martin, chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, said: “Scilly is now one of the best connected archipelagos in the world.

“The fast and stable data connection provides a vital link for our residents, businesses and visitors to mainland Britain and the rest of the world.

“It is also an indispensable tool for our 360 businesses, as the islands have the highest rate of self-employment per capita in the UK.”

She said the remoteness of Scilly makes it a “unique test case” for emerging technologies like telehealth and telecare projects.

Among local businesses already benefiting from the high-speed fibre is family-run company St Agnes Boating, which provides year-round ferry services for the community on St Agnes.

Owner John Peacock said superfast broadband had allowed them to “revolutionise” the way they run the business, including developing a new app recording their passenger numbers.

The app, which they believe to be the first of its kind in Europe, allows latest bookings to be shown on the company’s website so other people can joining trips that have already been arranged.

The system then automatically calculates the price for each person based on the number of passengers, with the individual price decreasing as more passengers sign up.

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