Skye sees community broadband investment paying off
What do you do when you have difficulty getting access to even mains power, but build your own and the same is happening with broadband in the more remote parts of the United Kingdom. The Tegola project in Inner Hebrides which started as a research project in 2007 is now starting to deliver fixed wireless broadband service offering speeds of up to 20 Mbps to those living in the Arnisdale, Corran and parts of Knoydart areas as well as the latest additions which are the isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna.
The service relies on wireless transmitter towers and relay sites, with the key point being access to a fibre connection in the Gaelic College (Sabhal Mor Ostaig). Many people have talked of getting access to spare fibres or sharing part of an existing service to create this sort of digital hub, and in many cases the negotiations over this sort of thing are lengthy, with the problems often not being technical but contractual.
The island of Skye is a busy place today, hosting a conference for community broadband activists and journalists like Rory Cellan-Jones from the BBC. The island does have ADSL services offered from the more than a dozen exchanges spread around the island, (Skye is around 25 mile long, but width varies from 3 miles to 25 miles, and is home to around 10,000 people) but many people live outside the main settlements and the terrain makes for longer than average line lengths.
The Tegola Project is part of a £5 million Community Broadband Initiative in Scotland, which exists to help communities develop solutions where commercial operators fear to tread.