Rural and IT are two words that don’t really go together. One brings images of beaches, countryside and peacful tranquility while the other is broadband speeds, 3G signal and Facebook. Over the last month or so I have had the priviledge of travelling all around Scotland for work and have been to some really rural (and stunning) locations. So just how bad is the IT provison in rural locations?
I was speaking to a guy yesterday whilst doing a Cisco router install. During the conversation I mentioned I had been to Barra the previous day to which he replied “they use computers on Barra?”. “They do indeed use computers on Barra (why wouldn’t they?) and they even get broadband too” I answered. The look of disbileaf on his face was awesome!!
Broadband provision throughout most of the Highlands and Islands that I can see is pretty good. You will get slow speeds in a few places but provision in the more populated areas seems ok (I did Skype my wife from Barra and the pictrure and sound quality was pretty good). I also read an article in one of the local papers on Stornaway that gave times for fibre upgrades (2015-2016) which considering the area is actually pretty good.
There are also some areas that also have free wifi but this depends dramtically on how remote the place is. For instance all the Highlands and Islands airports have free wifi which is very handy. Some of the larger hotels do too (Castlebay Hotel on Barra is one example).
Not so good is 3G. Mobile phone signal in the Highlands and Islands ranges from ok to dreadful but it does again depend on which provider you have. My network is O2 and over the last couple of months I have had 3G in Wick and nothing at all in Barra, Dumfries and Galloway and certain parts of Orkney. Mobile working using 3G has been challenging to say the least!! I would like to think that this will improve with the rollout of 4G but personally I can’t see it coming to these parts anytime soon.
But one thing I did see time and again is yes these parts of the country are miles away from anywhere but they are not cut off. People still shop online at Amazon, do online banking and even work from home. As one local on Harris put it “just because we choose to live in the arse end of nowhere doesn’t mean we are cut off”.
Personally I would have no issues with relocating my business here (especially the Outer Hebrides) as broadband speeds are more than fast enough for video conferencing and remotely helping clients. My clients might have a different slant on that however!!
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