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Connected Communities

Advice for customers moving from the Outer Hebrides wireless network.

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After 15 years of delivering broadband to medical services, schools, homes and businesses in the Outer Hebrides, the Connected Communities wireless network is to close at the end of March.

We've been scaling back on masts for some time as customers have been moving over to the new publicly funded fibre broadband network. Fibre has also opened the way for mobile operators to expand their data coverage, and services including home broadband packages.

With falling numbers of customers, and the high costs of running the infrastructure, it's not viable to keep it going.  

We're encouraging customers to give themselves plenty of time to find another way of getting broadband, and we can help those not sure what to do.

Find out here what's happening, where to look for options and where you can get more advice on technology and services.

Broadband technology options

Where should I check for an alternative service?

Fibre broadband

Some existing customers may find they can order fibre broadband, but have not yet migrated. Find out on our checker if mainstream fibre broadband is available, or currently planned for your address.

Broadband and digital infrastructure
Leverburgh Cab 6

Mobile connectivity

Many customers in more rural areas who can get a 4G signal are using this to provide fast internet/wifi at home. Packages are increasingly competitive.

Ofcom mobile checker

Mobile coverage assessment in Outer Hebrides

In advance of Connected Communities switch off, we are carrying out survey work in a number of local areas to assess mobile coverage. If you'd like more information on this get in touch.

Contact us
Tablet

Satellite

Increased speeds and a range of data and pricing packages are available from satellite providers. You can check availability online and with local IT, telecoms and installation providers.

Connected Communities - your questions

Find out more about Connected Communities and why the network is closing.

What is Connected Communities?

Connected Communities is a publicly funded wireless broadband network which was developed by HIE in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles.

It was introduced in 2005 to provide an industry standard network, capable of providing basic connectivity to vital island services including schools and health centres. It also provided services to home and business users across the islands who had no access to mainstream broadband. Internet services are provided by Hebrides.net

What’s changing?

The availability of fibre-optic broadband on the Outer Hebrides has changed dramatically.

Public sector premises are migrating to high speed services available through Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN). More than eight out of ten homes and businesses can now order mainstream broadband. The need for Connected Communities has reduced significantly. 

Given this, and with the high cost of public subsidy for delivery and maintenance of the network, it’s no longer viable or effective to run the Connected Communities network with public funds. It will be discontinued at the end of March 2020.

Who will be affected and what alternative solutions exist?

There are around 500 remaining customers using the network.  As well as considering the technology options outlined on this page here is some additional information:

Building on the Digital Scotland project, areas without access to superfast services are part of the Scottish Government’s £600m broadband project called Reaching 100% (R100). The project is in the final stage of procurement, and more detail on roll-out plans will be available after contract signing.

Solutions for rural areas

  • Community Fibre Partnership
    If private funding is available, then communities can look at installing fibre based broadband (including fibre to the premises) through Openreach’s ‘ Community Fibre Partnership’ scheme https://communityfibre.openreach.co.uk/
  • The ‘Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme’ is a voucher scheme designed to help rural areas receive full fibre broadband. Details on this are here https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/rural/
  • The Better Broadband Voucher Scheme is now closed for new voucher applications. On 20 March 2020 Ofcom plans to launch the broadband Universal Service Obligation to be delivered by BT and KCOM. Further details are available here.

We can’t recommend any specific operators, but if you need advice on what to do you can contact HIE’s digital team at hidigital@hient.co.uk

Did you look at alternatives to stopping the service?

Yes, we have tried to scale down the network and reduce costs as roll-out has progressed.

We have also looked at ways of reducing the high fixed costs or only switching off parts of the network but cannot find any cost-effective basis to continue.

What about the Universal Service Obligation?

The UK Government has confirmed that universal high speed broadband will be delivered by a regulatory Universal Service Obligation (USO), giving everyone in the UK access to speeds of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.

You can read more detail about the UK Government’s commitment to a regulatory USO here. 10Mbps is the speed that Ofcom, the independent regulator, says is needed to meet the requirements of an average family.

 

 

 

What will happen to the network equipment?

When the network is switched off we plan to remove equipment from mast sites, some of which are already decommissioned. Subscribers are encouraged to remove antennas from their properties and anyone having difficulty in doing this can contact us by email at hidigital@hient.co.uk to arrange removal.

Connected Communities news

Read the latest press release on the changes to the Connected Communities network.

End of era for ConCom wireless network