Dig your own broadband!
Hard graft brings high-speed internet
MOST of us think nothing of spending an evening watching movies online or enjoying a video chat with far-off relatives.
But in remote Altnaharra, snailpaced internet has long denied locals in the Sutherland beauty spot such 21st century pleasures.
Now that has radically changed – after residents rolled up their sleeves and set about digging more than three miles of trenches for hi-tech cables.
Their herculean efforts have been rewarded with some of the country’s fastest broadband speeds.
Around 60 households and businesses
‘A big surprise, it was Christmas all over’
can now enjoy internet access at up to 330Mbps.
It is one of two pilot fibre-to-thepremises (FTTP) projects funded by telecoms network firm Openreach.
The other, in Skerray, Sutherland, has also just gone live. The company’s engineers are spending the next few weeks working to connect up further households and outlying properties.
Local people and workers from the Altnaharra Estate pitched in and dug trenches to take around 4,800 metres (5,250 yards) of cables.
Until now, the high cost of bringing faster internet access to remote areas has left many small communities struggling to even get online.
Altnaharra 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 ultra-fast, it was Christmas all over. We now have fibre in the office with a download speed of 80Mbps and upload of 20Mbps. It makes a big, big difference.
‘We do our banking online, and can now do it when we like rather than waiting for a quiet time of day when bandwidth is available.’
Pieter Bakker, manager of the 36,600-acre Altnaharra Estate, 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 chief executive Clive Selley said: ‘We promised the people of Altnaharra and Skerray their new ultra-fast 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.
‘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.’
Letters – Pages 56-57
Net gain: Estate boss Pieter Bakker and son Scott
Cutting edge: Work on Skerray project