10 March 2013

2,200 residents on the Isles of Scilly to receive submarine cable link worth £3.7 million

Tresco, one of the 5 inhabited islands, © Tom Corser 2009
2,200 residents on the Isles of Scilly are set to receive faster broadband from 2014. The £3.7 million scheme will involve diverting superseded fibre optic cables, which have remained unused on the seabed for about three years, to all five of the inhabited islands located 28 miles off the south west of Cornwall.

BT says the project, funded by BT, Cornwall Council and the European Regional Development Fund, is “the most ambitious UK project ever” to bring faster broadband speeds to a remote community. It represents the EU's biggest ever single investment in super-fast broadband infrastructure.

“We are delighted that a solution has been found to give our islands the best broadband access,” said Mike Hicks, chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly. “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.”

Nigel Ashcroft, programme director of Superfast Cornwall for the Cornwall Development Company, said it would be “truly life-changing for businesses on the isles... opening the door to doing business in more markets across the world”.

He added: “This means more local jobs and a stronger, more sustainable economy for Scilly.”

Currently the Isles, which are located 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, have to rely on a radio link from Land’s End providing a total bandwidth of 8 MBit/s.

Meanwhile St Helena which is significantly more isolated, has a population almost twice as large that is expected to grow once its airport becomes operational in 2016, struggles to secure £10 million for its link to the planned South Atlantic Express cable (SAex).

High-speed broadband would be huge for education. Not only could we make better use of online materials, but with affordable broadband teachers could develop their practice from home.
I'm an IT engineer and I would love to return to my island to start an IT business, but because of the slow, expensive and unreliable internet connection this is simply impossible.
I had to leave St Helena to study. Being 5000 miles away from my family and friends is hard. Not being able to skype with them due to the slow and expensive internet on St Helena is even harder.
Socioeconomic status is now heavily reliant on broadband penetration. With the ever-growing importance of the internet, St Helena with its limited access is in danger of being left behind.