Dig your own broad­band!

Hard graft brings high-speed in­ter­net

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Lucinda Cameron

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

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