Dig-your-own broadband reaps re­wards

● Re­mote ham­lets now en­joy some of the best speeds in all of Scot­land

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By MARTYN MCLAUGH­LIN mm­claugh­lin@scots­man.com

They are sparsely pop­u­lated ham­lets which nes­tle in one of the great wilder­nesses of the Scottish main­land.

At first glance, the Suther­land com­mu­ni­ties of Alt­na­harra and Sk­er­ray are not an ob­vi­ous draw to those look­ing to re­lo­cate.

But if your check­list for a new home has broadband speed as the num­ber one pri­or­ity, there could no bet­ter place.

Res­i­dents and busi­nesses in the two out­ly­ing ham­lets can now en­joy some of the fastest broadband speeds in all of Scot­land thanks to an emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy which prom­ises to trans­form the way we use the in­ter­net.

And the high-speed ser­vice was made pos­si­ble af­ter lo­cal peo­ple and work­ers from the Alt­na­harra es­tate helped to dig in around 4,800 me­tres of ca­ble.

Full-fi­bre ca­bles have now gone live across the ma­jor­ity of prop­er­ties in both ar­eas, home to around 130 peo­ple.

The ma­te­rial, which re­places cop­per ca­bles pre­dom­i­nantly used for broadband con­nec­tions, will al­low peo­ple to down­load a two-hour long HD film in just 90 sec­onds. Per­haps more im­por­tantly, its speeds of up to 330Mbps are also seen as a ma­jor boost for frag­ile ru­ral economies.

Un­til now, due to the high costs of bring­ing faster broadband to small com­mu­ni­ties in re­mote ar­eas, many of the vil­lagers have been mak­ing do with some of Scot­land’s slow­est con­nec­tions of around 0.5Mbps.

Those up and run­ning with the new ul­tra­fast ser­vice say it has al­ready brought huge ben­e­fits. Becy Robertson, the man­ager of Alt­na­harra Ho­tel, said: “Our orig­i­nal broadband was truly snail’s 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 ul­tra­fast, it was Christ­mas all over.”

Ms Robertson said the ho­tel now en­joys down­loads speeds of 80Mbps and an up­load speed of 20Mbps, which “makes a big, big dif­fer­ence.”

She added: “We do all our bank­ing on­line, and can now do this when­ever we like rather than wait­ing for a quiet time of day when band­width is avail­able. Our book­ing process has im­proved dra­mat­i­cally, as we can now up­date on­line avail­abil­ity in real time when we take reser­va­tions over the phone.”

Open­reach has funded the two pi­lot fi­bre-to-the-premises (FTTP) projects, build­ing fi­bre from new nodes off main fi­bre spines di­rect to lo­cal prop­er­ties, with both com­mu­ni­ties help­ing with dig­ging work.

0 Becy Robertson, man­ager of the Alt­na­harra Ho­tel, said the full-fi­bre broadband had ‘dra­mat­i­cally’ im­proved speeds in the re­mote ham­let PIC­TURE: BT/PA WIRE

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