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Subscribers to to get faster broadband services

22 March 2011

Connected Communities, which delivers broadband services to parts of the Outer Hebrides, is to see a doubling of its capacity in the next three months.

HIE has secured additional off-island capacity in the BT telecommunications links between Stornoway and London. Because of capacity constraints had recently suspended new orders to ensure that existing customer services were not affected. Anyone with an outstanding order for broadband can now arrange to have equipment installed so that they can be connected as soon as the service is upgraded.

The increase in capacity will also allow plans to upgrade customers to up to 2mbps, with additional options for business and higher capacity users. It is envisaged that the ISP will then be able to offer a wider range of services tailored to the residential and business user.

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Donald Macdonald 05/07/2011

You say the off-island link speed is doubled, but it was pathetically poor for the the existing users - I know - I am one. I could not get 512 from my 512 service. You say that customers will be upgraded by a factor of 4 from 512K (which I did not get) to 2048K by only doubling the off-island capacity? Your arithmetic is badly flawed. You are also going to put a backlog of customers onto the service too. Be serious, this can never work. Give BT the money and lets get a proper job done here.

Gordon Maciver 05/08/2011

You say 'HIE has secured additional off-island capacity in the BT telecommunications links between Stornoway and London' I would have to say unsecure It then because it's not made any change to the speed at peak times..... I'm on a 1Mbps package and I cant use it tonight just like most nights and it's well over your 3 month..If the link can't take the traffic then a new link should be made or a reduction in the price for not suppling the service 24/7.....................

Richard Gate 29/08/2011

I have visited the Western Isles a couple of times in the last two years and each time I have grown to like it more. So I started looking at the practicalities of moving here from Yorkshire. I live and work on the Internet which means I must have a decent Internet connection to even think about a move. This lead me to start reading about the Broadband services available in the Western Isles. I very quickly discovered that it all seems to be hidden in a mystery. I discovered Connected Communities,, ScotNet, BT, and Tooway. But most of all, I found stories of confusion, poor customer service, unfulfilled plans and most of all, no real idea of what the overall picture was. I started by trying to contact Connection Communities and found how frustrating that was as they outright refused to provide any information to me at all. I am happy to admit I have not conducted an in-depth study but why should that be necessary? This information should be out there ready to be picked up and read. Maybe it is, I don't know for certain. So this is why I am setting up this web site - . The idea is to try to get information on the available services from the people who are using them and any other source I can find.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 30/08/2011

Reply to Richard Gate: Since 1994 HIE has been developing opportunities for people to work from home or local offices throughout the islands. BT provide broadband in the more densely populated areas in a similar way to other UK locations. Over the years the telecoms network ability to support broadband out to our more rural communities was recognised as a limiting factor and the Community Planning Partnership agreed to procure our own network. HIE undertook the role of procuring and building the network now widely recognised as Connected Communities. This network provides symmetric services to those areas not able to receive broadband through the local exchange including those upgraded but where the property is too far from the exchange. The access network is through an encrypted Fixed Wireless Access connection connected to over 100 access hubs located in various communities. This is a wholesale service with retail services provided through Scotnet who are a private sector provider through an ISP service Standard services are available through the website and there is no installation charge. Any business requiring any specialised service including higher capacity, low contention services would be referred to HIE as the owner of the network and as the economic development agency for the area. The network is very low latency and provides connectivity for over 100 public sector locations including VoIP with excellent SLA's. There should be no difficulty with customer service. Currently HIE is in the process of procuring Next Generation Access for the whole of the Highlands and Islands, including the Western Isles, though the government funded BDUK initiative.

Steve Adams 06/08/2014

As a consumer who is wholly in thrall of your services and one who has no alternative other than to make use of the Connected Communities broadband infrastructure via I'm afraid to say that the credibility of Connected Communities project over recent years is in tatters. HIE and the other partners involved in the project to provide a robust, sustainable and affordable broadband provision to the remote areas of the Western Isles have failed dismally to do so and the system has now become almost totally unfit for purpose. This inherent and inevitable failure appears to have started right from the inception of the project ignoring as it did the findings and recommendations of the report commissioned by the The Western Isles ICT Advisory Service in 2001 which was conducted by Michael M Smith, MA MSc, Course Director, BA Rural Development Studies, UHI, and entitled 'THE FUTURE OF BROADBAND TELECOMS PROVISION IN THE WESTERN ISLES AND ASSOCIATED SKILLS DEVELOPMENT REQUIREMENTS' where by Mr Smith clearly demonstrated and recommended on pg 6 of that report under 'Findings and recommendations' that with the right level of investment and the foresight to install a robust enough infrastructure the Western Isles could avail itself of being on the leading edge of ICT development in the UK as well as the EU and beyond. It is staggering to see that here we are 13 years and around 5 million pounds later that much of the Western Isles is still in the technological stone age, To give a very graphic example of this the internet speeds that I have currently been enjoying reached an all time low of 10.3 kbps this evening after several months of averaging way less than a half of what I am being asked to pay over £25 per month for. In the response above from 2011 to 'Richard Gate' it is stated that "Currently HIE is in the process of procuring Next Generation Access for the whole of the Highlands and Islands, including the Western Isles, though the government funded BDUK initiative." However almost exactly 3 years later the service is progressively going even further and faster backwards, such promises have been made and broken numerous times and the current situation of the impending additional provision via Vodaphone of a mere 100Mb has yet to materialize nor is it clear how long that will be enough for the voracious growth and dependent use we all make of the internet in 2014. One has to wonder if those in charge of IT development and provision in the Western Isles missed the 101 IT class that spoke of 'Moore's Law' and the exponential growth of both IT and now of course the internet. In conclusion then and as a consumer of the woeful Connected Communities system and with no other choice of provider I am sure I am not alone in feeling very ripped off.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 11/08/2014

Broadband bandwidth from the mainland to the Outer Hebrides is at capacity, which constrains all services including those of the Connected Communities network. This constraint on bandwidth availability, combined with customers using increasingly data hungry applications, has made it difficult for providers to meet demand, particularly at peak times. Vodafone’s plans to upgrade its mainland link allowed us to place an order in March which will effectively more than double our existing capacity for customers. The upgrade, which requires work both on the islands and mainland, is ongoing. In the meantime, to maximise the services for existing customers we put new connections on hold. As soon as the upgraded capacity becomes available we will be able to begin connecting new customers again. In addition, we are investigating how Connected Communities customers can benefit from the subsea fibre connection currently being laid to the mainland – either through access to new fibre broadband services or the significantly improved backhaul.

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