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Scottish island community working with BT to get fibre broadband to remote parts of Skye

Friday, June 12th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A community in the Scottish Highlands has come together to make the most of the area’s superfast broadband rollout.

Minginish, a peninsula on the southern part of the Isle of Skye, is set to be included in the rollout of high-speed broadband by Digital Scotland.

But residents fear the rural nature of the area will mean that some premises will still be stuck with slow speeds.

Nick Duffill of Connect Minginish, a community group set up to maximise the benefits of superfast broadband, said not all of the exchanges on Skye are included in the rollout, which is being undertaken by BT.

He said in some ways it is easier for the areas not covered by the rollout to get high speed broadband to all parts of the community.

This is because they are eligible for funding from Community Broadband Scotland, a Scottish Government project helping to get broadband to some of the hardest-to-reach areas of the Highlands.

“Here in Minginish, we are going to get superfast broadband but it is such a large area served by a single exchange,” Mr Duffill told Cable.co.uk.

One telephone exchange serves about 350 premises spread out over 200 sq km, he said.

And as there are no street cabinets, each property is connected directly to the exchange by what is known as an ‘exchange-only line’.

These lines are often not considered economically viable to upgrade as they serve only one property.

'Wireless system'

“Broadband at the moment is ok for those nearest the exchange, they tend to get about 5-6Mbps and a few get the full 8Mbps but after that it decreases rapidly,” said Mr Duffill.

“A number don’t get broadband at all so have to have a satellite set-up.”

Connect Minginish is aiming to work alongside BT to make sure that even those furthest from the exchange feel the benefits of the new fibre network.

It is currently encouraging residents to complete a broadband survey to find out what kind of take-up a community broadband scheme is likely to get.

“Our aim is to be as co-operative as we can with BT, to help in any way we can,” Mr Duffill said.

He said the group is working with community projects elsewhere on Skye to see if parts of Minginish can be connected to other broadband schemes.

Cable.co.uk has reported on the efforts of the North Skye Community Broadband scheme to bring superfast broadband to the Skye communities of Glendale, Duntulm and Waternish.

Mr Duffill said the most likely solution for isolated properties in Minginish is a “wireless system of sorts”.

He added: “We will stop being competitive as a region if we don’t have [superfast broadband] and others do.”

He said it is particularly important to Skye’s international businesses such as the Talisker Distillery at Carbost, which attracts 60,000 visitors a year to the area.

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