Remote areas of Scotland are now able to access superfast broadband, thanks to a research project by two of the country’s universities.
The University of Edinburgh and the University of the Highlands and Islands have been working together for some time on the Tegola project, which aims to bring fast internet connections to the population of rural Scotland.
It had already established an academic network to join up the two universities, namely the Highland and Islands’ Gaelic College on Skye – Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI – and Edinburgh.
Now it has utilised the high speed connectivity to roll out connections to the surrounding islands of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna, as well into some rural parts of the Scottish mainland, thanks to the low-cost network of relays on hand.
HebNet, a local technology firm specialising in connecting rural areas, took on the task of building out the extensions to the network, but it will be the communities in the local areas who end up managing the connections.
The scheme has received backing from the Scottish government’s Community Broadband Scotland initiative, with Nicola Sturgeon, cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities, saying: “Broadband should not be considered a luxury in places like the Highlands and Islands; it is essential to enhance the quality of life of communities and to stimulate the growth of the local economy.”
Jem Taylor, head of strategy and development for the University of the Highlands and Islands IT team, added: “Commercial internet providers have so far failed to find an economical way to reach these remote, sparsely populated and often mountainous regions, meaning many are being left behind in the digital revolution.
“Now we’ve established the model works, it has the potential to be used in other rural communities.”
A launch event celebrating the new connections took place over the weekend and superfast broadband is available to residents now.