Pioneering undersea cable scheme will deliver superfast broadband for the Isles of Scilly
Most ambitious UK project ever undertaken to bring fastest broadband speeds to a remote community
The most ambitious project ever undertaken in the UK to bring superfast broadband to a remote community was announced today.
Fibre optic cables, which have remained unused on the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean for about three years, are to be diverted to the Isles of Scilly in a £3.7 million scheme to give the islanders the fastest broadband speeds.
The project is part of the £132 million Superfast Cornwall initiative between the European Regional Development Fund, BT and Cornwall Council, which plans to deliver faster broadband throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in 2014. The private and public sector partnership has already delivered high-speed fibre broadband to more than half of all Cornish homes and businesses.
It is expected that the first Isles of Scilly customers will be connected during the first half of 2014. A cable ship is due to spend about a month later this year cutting and moving two cables, which had previously been used for communications between the UK and Ireland and Spain.
Until now, the 2,200 residents of the Isles of Scilly – located 28 miles off the South West tip of Cornwall – have had to make do with a broadband service provided by a radio link between Lands End and the Isles.
People on all five of Scilly’s inhabited islands, famous for their remote Atlantic location and as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), are expected to benefit from the latest investment.
Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director for Cornwall Development Company, the economic development company of Cornwall Council, said: “The project to deliver fibre optic broadband for the Isles of Scilly will be one of the most important steps forward for the islands for many years. It will be truly life-changing for businesses on the isles, enabling them to be better connected to existing customers and colleagues and opening the door to doing business in more markets across the world. We believe superfast broadband will fuel economic growth on the islands by helping existing firms become more efficient and enabling them to seize new market opportunities and by also sparking more start-up businesses. This means more local jobs and a stronger, more sustainable economy for Scilly.”
Ranulf Scarbrough, Superfast Cornwall programme director for BT, said: “BT engineers have devised a highly innovative and environmentally-friendly scheme to bring fibre broadband to the islands that is pioneering in every sense of the word. It is certainly the most ambitious initiative of its kind ever undertaken in UK waters and probably in Europe.
“The remote location of the Isles of Scilly, their wonderful maritime heritage and scientific and environmental status will present a variety of unique engineering challenges. But BT has extensive experience of laying subsea cables in sensitive locations around the UK and further afield.
“Environmentally, it is excellent news that we are able to breathe new life into existing cables which are no longer used, but still in very good condition. Superfast Cornwall has raised the bar again by showing that fibre broadband can be brought to places that some thought impossible.”
Cllr 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."
The exact amount is dependent on demand for fibre broadband from local businesses and could be lower than £132 million.
For further information
For further information on the Superfast Cornwall programme visit www.superfastcornwall.org
Notes to Editors
Further information about next generation broadband is available from www.bt.com/ngb
About the Convergence Programme
The Superfast Cornwall project is part financed by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Convergence European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/erdf-national-guidance or
ERDF Convergence Project Investment: £53.5 million
About Cornwall Development Company
Cornwall Development Company Ltd, the arms length economic development company for Cornwall Council, is managing the Superfast Cornwall programme.
Further information is available at www.cornwalldevelopmentcompany.co.uk