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Locheilnet community broadband doubles capacity

04 March 2016

A community broadband company connecting villages in the remote areas around Fort William has doubled its capacity, reaching 270 customers after a second cable connection was installed to meet soaring demand.

Not-for-profit Locheilnet CIC, which is run by local volunteers, was set up in October 2012. The community group received support and funding from various sponsors and £91,500 from Community Broadband Scotland (CBS). With the original aim of connecting 50 households, the success of its system, which uses wireless relays to navigate the mountainous terrain around Ben Nevis, resulted in soaring demand and the company quickly reached full capacity.

Now with an additional connection, Locheilnet is able to deliver this vital service to 270 customers, with more customers expected to be connected in the coming months.

The 270th customer, Nevis Radio, is a community radio station that has been broadcasting since 1992. Based at the Ben Nevis Estate in Fort William, the connection to Superfast Broadband will enable the station to broadcast more efficiently and interact with its listeners.

David Ogg, Station Manager at Nevis Radio said: “The opportunity to be connected to Superfast Broadband is great for the area and it will make broadcasting a lot easier for the station. We will also be able to connect with listeners and be constantly tuned in to what’s going on in the area, Scotland and further afield by a reliable broadband connection.”

Chris Pellow, Locheilnet founder and project manager said: “There has been strong demand for our service which is fantastic but we had found the lack of capacity challenging. With the second leased line in place, we are now able to satisfy the customer’s requirements and continue to grow.

Our goal is to connect people who wouldn’t normally have access to high speed broadband and to provide a reliable backup for businesses.

Calum Stiven, Community Broadband Scotland adviser for Western Isles, Lochaber, Skye & Wester Ross added: “Locheilnet is a great example of what can happen when rural communities and service providers collaborate together. Just like the communities of Loch Eil, Loch Linnhe, Loch Lochy, Loch Shiel and Loch Arkaig, we hope to connect as many communities as possible to high-speed broadband.

“At CBS, we work in partnership with communities unlikely to be reached by the Digital Scotland roll-out to develop viable ways of delivering superfast services to empower communities with the benefits that good connectivity brings.”

Despite wild weather and lightning strikes, which have resulted in occasional power outages, the dedicated team at Locheilnet do everything they can to keep the communities in its area connected. Recently during a power outage at one of its main relays, volunteers ferried batteries up the mountain every couple of hours in order to keep the service running, just one example of the sheer determination of this small group to keep the area better connected.

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