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A project manager has been appointed to oversee the 1.5 million Connected Communities project, which aims to deliver wireless broadband across the Western Isles.

John Black, a radio telecoms consultant, took over as project manager this month. The timing of his appointment coincides with a major survey of over 1,000 Western Isles-based businesses to establish their broadband requirements.

Two hundred registrations of interest in broadband provision have already been received via the Connected Communities website, www.connectedcommunities.co.uk  but this further canvassing exercise - which kicks off today - will encourage more businesses and organisations to register their demand for such a service.

Broadband offers businesses faster ways of working with 'always on' access, fixed costs and increased efficiency as well as opening up potential new areas of work. The Connected Communities project - which has already been two years in development - aims to deliver wireless broadband from Barra to the Butt of Lewis using existing masts at strategic points throughout the five main islands, forming a backbone.

The network backbone will link in with several 'hops' to the main communities of the Western Isles to provide a range of bandwidth options to a diverse group of users.

John Black is well qualified to take the reins of the Connected Communities project. He graduated from the Open University with an MBA in Technology Management and has previously worked for the BBC, Mercury /Cable and Wireless, as well as a recent spell working in the oil industry in Aberdeen and abroad.

Commenting on his appointment, John said: "I am delighted to be at the helm of such an innovative and exciting project. I very much look forward to the challenge of co-ordinating the implementation and promotion of leading edge wireless broadband services throughout the Western Isles"

Donnie Macaulay, chief executive of Western Isles Enterprise (WIE) said: "John's appointment and the survey of businesses in the Western Isles is an important milestone for the Connected Communities project. We hope that businesses and organisations in the area that have not already expressed their interest in broadband, will come forward now.

"Connected Communities is a very exciting prospect for the Western Isles because it will help to remove barriers to inward investment and allow our businesses to compete on a more level playing field. It will also go a long way towards reducing peripherality."

To find out more about the Connected Communities project and to fill in an on-line questionnaire please visit www.connectedcommunities.co.uk