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Wireless broadband set to bring superfast speeds to south Skye

Tuesday, October 13th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Homes and businesses in south Skye could soon get superfast internet speeds thanks to a community broadband scheme.

Wireless service Skyenet has teamed up with a wireless system being run by the community of Taskavaig to help extend the network to more people in the area.

The partnership could lead to getting superfast services to some communities early next year, organisers said.

The Skyenet wireless service was established to make sure areas of Sleat and Strathaird can get better broadband.

Developed and run by Sleat Community Trust (SCT) with support from Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), Rural Broadband Networks and the Highland Council, the service uses wireless technology rather than cables, where speeds reduce the further somewhere is from the exchange.

As well as being created by locals, the project’s customer services are run by local staff from the trust who have received IT-based customer support training.

Skyenet’s network went live in April and currently covers Aird, Achnacloich, Tokavaig, Ord, and Drumfearn, with services due to arrive soon in Heaste.

Around 20 connections from Tarskavaig will now be managed by the local Skyenet team, it was announced today.

Angus Robertson, Sleat Community Trust manager, said: “We’re delighted to be extending the network further.

“The communities are working together to create a reliable, affordable broadband network.

“Many customers in the project were just too far away from their exchange to see a useable broadband service. As well as providing better broadband now the network is future proofed.

“When access opens up to a fibre backhaul in Mallaig we plan to provide superfast services – hopefully in the early part of next year.”

'Vital part to play'

The new enterprise is accelerating its planned rollout – hoping to connect 75 premises by the end of this year, and 100 in 2016.

Organisers are also working with other groups developing projects nearby, Mr Robertson said.

“There are a number of community led projects being developed, known as the west coast backbone. We are happy to be part of that, and to share our experiences.

“With help from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s (HIE) community assets team we are hosting a seminar in November. It will look at how community projects can have a vital part to play in solving coverage in the most difficult broadband areas.”

Calum Stiven, an adviser at Community Broadband Scotland, said: “It’s great to see Skyenet coverage growing in the south of Skye.

“Its wireless network offers flexible delivery, and opens up the benefits of better broadband to many people who thought they might never see a useable connection.

“The prospect that the next step for the network in the new year is that customers will be able to get superfast speeds is really exciting.”

Community Broadband Scotland, part of HIE aims to kickstart community-led broadband projects in Scottish communities to help get services to people who are unlikely to benefit from the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project.

CBS is a partnership between the Scottish Government, HIE, Scottish Enterprise, COSLA, Scottish Local Authorities Economic Development Group, Carnegie UK Trust, Cairngorms National Park Authority and Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority.

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