Hebrides get last mile www access

We’ve been back on Mull at the beginning of the month to join friends for a week’s break on this wonderful wild island. The weather was great, the sun shone and gentle winds encouraged lazy days and relaxation. Even a rain soaked walk up Loch Ba provided us with some stunning views of white tipped sea eagles with their 6 feet wide wingspan.

We can never resist a visit to Tobermory with its shops, distillery and ‘Fish Cafe’ restaurant, voted the finest in Scotland. What we’d not anticipated though was participating in a historic moment in the country’s quest for digital recognition on the world wide web.

As we walked down the sea front, out from the low waters of the harbour and onto the muddy strand came a wading figure in thigh length boots, white helmet and dark grey waterproofs. He was making for a large JCB digger surrounded by a crowd of technicians, where a recently excavated narrow channel could be seen revealing a 50 mm cable.

“What’s all this for?” I asked a French engineer talking vigorously with a colleague involved on the project. “There’s a multi national team working on this and we’re just reaching the end of a big project. Once the cable out there is joined up with this one on Mull, the fibre link to the whole of the Hebrides islands will be completed.” More details of the project can be found here.

This is great for those who live and work on these remote western islands of Scotland and will mean that subscribers can easily be provided with internet speeds of 100 Mbs. I had heard the new SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon talking about this project at an IT conference in Edinburgh two years ago and never thought I would be a witness to its final completion!

Can it help to revive the fortunes of such far flung communities, where the long term trend has been of moving back to the mainland? Islanders, planners and politicians will be watching the impact of this major project with interest and bated breath.

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