Isles of Scilly firms welcome £3m broadband link
Businesses on the Isles of Scilly have welcomed news of a £3.7 million investment to bring superfast broadband to the archipelago.
Connecting the remote islands, which lie 28 miles off the Cornish coast, has long been seen as one of the most challenging aspects of the £132 million Superfast Cornwall initiative.
The European-funded partnership has now announced that it will be moving two underwater communications cables between 30 and 40km in order to make the connection.
The islands currently receive their broadband via radio signals which can be unreliable, particularly in bad weather, with variable upload and download speeds of up to a couple of megabytes.
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Having access to fibre optic broadband will see speeds match those on the mainland, as well as giving a reliable service.
Zoe Julian, a partner in the St Martins-based Scent From the Islands flower business, said: "It will make quite a big difference to us. It's about the robustness of the service, the speed at which we can process things and things we can put on our website, like videos, which we can't at the moment.
"It will really speed up our payment system. At the moment we're packing orders for Mother's Day and 75% of that has come in online. With faster broadband, it will speed up the processing of those payments."
The underwater communications cables, which currently link the UK to Ireland and Spain, were previously used for telephone signals but have been unused for the last three years.
A cable ship is due to spend about a month in the summer or autumn cutting and moving the cables, with the islands likely to receive their connection early in 2014.
Although the cables will deliver broadband to St Mary's, Superfast Cornwall is still finalising how the broadband will be delivered to the other four inhabited islands. But it has pledged that all residents will be able to access superfast speeds.
Ranulf Scarbrough, Superfast Cornwall programme director for BT, said: "We're very upbeat about what's going to be possible."
Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director for Cornwall Development Company, said: "The Isles of Scilly has lost its helicopter link and it's reliant on flight. To light things up by giving them a 21st century network – I think it's the economic superhighway."
Councillor Mike Hicks, chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, said: "We are delighted that a solution has been found to give our islands the best broadband access. The Isles of Scilly's communications with the UK mainland and beyond are a key part of creating a better, more prosperous future for islanders and will allow this vibrant community to take full advantage of its unique location. Faster broadband will underpin our tourist trade, will help our farmers and growers and will promote distance learning. New business opportunities will be stimulated on the islands, encouraging local productivity and enhancing our quality of life."