rural broadband

Scottish residents fed up with slow internet speeds lay their own broadband cables

Residents in two remote Scottish communities are helping to install new broadband cables that will dramatically increase the speed of the internet available to them to among the fastest in the UK.

Ultrafast fibre is to be laid straight to the door of properties in Altnaharra in Sutherland and Skerray in Caithness, allowing internet download speeds to rocket from less than 0.5Mbps to up to 330Mbps by the autumn.

BT company Openreach said all 45 of the scattered households linked to the Altnaharra telephone exchange will be included, while in Skerray around 100 premises could benefit.

People living on the private Altnaharra Estate are to help dig in new cable which crosses the land, while in Skerray, residents who live some distance from the core network have also agreed to dig in sections of cable to their properties, to specifications agreed with Openreach.

Openreach is funding the scheme but both communities have pledged to help with some of the digging work to manage costs and ensure they are among the first to trial the ‘fibre to premises’ service.

As well as increasing speeds, the work will address a high fault rate in Skerray where existing copper cables buried under the beach have been damaged by lightning strikes.

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said: “As our core fibre spines penetrate even deeper into rural Scotland, it brings new opportunities to improve broadband speeds for remote communities.

“In Altnaharra and Skerray, we’re assessing a new concept, building fibre from new nodes off the spines direct to local properties with support from the local communities. This builds on recent partnership and commercial investments in the Highlands and islands.

“We’ll test how we can use the spines to reach very rural communities, and the distances over which we can use fibre effectively. Our learning from these innovative trials will inform our wider fibre strategy and could potentially help us to reach other very remote communities around the UK.

“The two pilot communities will see their broadband speeds jump dramatically, as well as improvements to their existing services, so this is a win-win situation.”

In the March Budget, the Government set aside £200m for projects designed to increase private sector investment in super-fast fibre broadband networks around the country. 

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