‘Fibre to the Croft-house’ Broadband pilot in Lewis village

The village of Dalmore on the west coast of Lewis, is the first village in the Highlands and Islands to have their internet connection delivered into their homes using fibre optic technologies.

This innovative project was successful in its bid to be funded through the European Rural Broadband Challenge Fund, managed by the Outer Hebrides LEADER programme, which connects five of the six houses in the village into the Connected Communities network.

The pilot project has focused on understanding both the challenges and costs of bringing a fibre connection directly into peoples homes. While fibre installations are quite costly due to the requirement to dig a trench to lay the duct for the fibre up to every home, it is the most future proof solution as the technology is capable of delivering extremely fast connections.

Donald MacLeod from Dalmore Common Grazings, who managed the project on behalf of the community stated: “The community of Dalmore wants to thank everybody involved in this project; we have at long last joined the 21st century. Not only can the school children in the village now keep up with their studies, but we hope shortly to have two small businesses run from the village.”

Eileen Macdonald who has a home in the village said that they “are delighted with the new broadband connection. Our village has not had any broadband service until now and to be the first to have a fibre connection is very exciting”.

Donnie Morrison, Project Manager of Connected Communities added: “While the Dalmore pilot doesn’t yet exploit the full potential of fibre due to constraints in the links to the mainland it has been a very useful learning experience and will inform future projects on both the technology requirements and the civil construction methodology involved.”

Archie Campbell, chair of the Outer Hebrides LEADER Local Action Group welcomed completion of this innovative pilot project. “This is one of several successful communities in the islands which have received money after bidding to the Rural Broadband Challenge Fund which brings broadband to our most challenging locations. The project is also funding three relay sites on the West coast of Harris and we expect these to be completed by the end of November. A further site is about to be commissioned at Lochside in North Tolsta.”

Engineering consultancy Atkins, designed, built and will provide ongoing operational support for the broadband installation to the village. Atkins’ project director Neil Watt said: “Internet technology offers great opportunities to improve the quality of life for remote communities and boost local businesses. There are a lot of complex challenges to overcome with a project of this type and the information we’ve gathered from the pilot will assist us in our ongoing work to provide modelling, procurement, commercial and technical support for the rollout of Next Generation Broadband projects for Scotland.”

The Rural Broadband Challenge Fund is managed through the EU LEADER Programme and the Outer Hebrides was one of only five Scottish LEADER Local Action Groups awarded a share of the €1million Fund, following an intensive bidding process in early 2011.