Northbay on Barra is to be provided with broadband access through an extension of the Connected Communities (ConCom) network which is already providing 930 households with the service across the Outer Hebrides.
At the request of Northbay residents, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) evaluated the merits of procuring an ADSL upgrade for the local telephone exchange, compared to installing an extension of the ConCom wireless network.
HIE chief executive Sandy Cumming explained: “Both the options provide broadly similar levels of benefits, and potentially each demonstrates similar levels of value for money but ConCom can provide Northbay with broadband access by the end of the summer while procurement would take significantly longer.
“The ConCom tariff is not out of line with typical ADSL prices across the Highlands although it is often compared unfavourably with the very lowest ADSL tariffs available nationally. ConCom is, though, currently reviewing its prices and we anticipate a greater range of service options and prices being made available to its customers.
“I’m aware that broadband connection has prompted a lot of debate in Northbay and the options have been closely examined for their relative merits and limitations. This decision is supported by the local authority and the Scottish Government as the best way to deliver broadband to Northbay as soon as possible.”
HIE has recently awarded BT the contract to provide an improved ‘backhaul’ connection to the Outer Hebrides. BT has previously announced plans for a major commercially-driven network upgrade which is expected to bring second generation ADSL broadband to Northbay as part of the company’s 21st Century Network programme.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan supported HIE’s decision to deliver ConCom to Barra this year: “Barra residents want a fast, reliable internet connection available as quickly as possible and at an affordable price. Given that ConCom appear willing to review their pricing and service structure and the connection across the Minch is to be improved, HIE’s decision seems to be a sensible way forward until extended choices become commercially viable.”
While local Barra councillor Donald Manford said: “Because we live in a distant location, it’s all the more important that we have first class telecommunications provision. Having been involved in this matter, I understand why ConCom presents the only option at the present time.