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HIE Launches Wireless Broadband Company 16 September 03

Today sees the launch of HI-WIDE Ltd, a not-for-profit company that will bring broadband to the most rural and remote parts of the Highlands and Islands.

The company has been created by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in response to an increasing need for broadband in areas where ADSL broadband cannot be supplied.

"In the current market, we can't see that commercial broadband solutions will become available to much more than half the people in our area," said Calum Davidson, head of the Knowledge Economy Team at HIE.

"We are convinced that broadband will be the major driving force for economic and social development this decade and we can't afford for any parts of the Highlands and Islands to be left behind."

He added: "That is why we have set up HI-WIDE, as a not-for-profit, community based broadband provider. This means that we can supply broadband by wireless to areas where the potential subscriber base is much lower than normal. We have demonstrated this over the past few months in Orkney, Ross-shire, Lochaber and Argyll."

HIE and the European Union have provided 2.6million to connect 50 communities during 2004.

The launch of HI-WIDE follows a six-month demonstration programme where five diverse communities saw the introduction of wireless broadband. The communities involved are Cromarty, Achiltibuie, Acharacle, Tobermory and Westray. Using wireless technology hosted in people's homes the users in each of these areas have experienced high speed, always on internet access comparable with that available in larger cities and towns in the UK.

David Green, former convener of Highland Council and now chairman of both the Crofters Commission and HI-WIDE, said: "I am delighted to be involved in this exciting project. I can see that the availability of broadband in the most fragile areas of the Highlands and Islands will probably become as vital as having improved transport links, electricity and water."

He added: "It is a non-profit-making project - a community-based initiative, aimed at helping businesses and individuals in some of the most rural and remote areas of the Highlands and Islands."

Following HIE's successful broadband marketing campaign earlier this year, where people throughout the Highlands and Islands were encouraged to register their interest in broadband, 30 new areas, ranging from Cumbrae on the Clyde to Sanday in Orkney (full list attached) have been chosen to be
the first to receive wireless broadband during 2004.

Explaining the selection process, Calum Davidson of HIE said: "There were a number of reasons for choosing these communities. WE know that ADSL will not be available in these areas for the forseeable future, yet the response to our marketing campaign showed there was significant local demand for broadband. These areas were also very suitable for delivering broadband by wireless."

Fraser Mackenzie, the newly appointed Chief Executive of HI-WIDE said: "The faster always on aspects of broadband and the interconnectivity we can provide within local networks offers significant economic and social opportunities for these communities. This is essentially a large-scale community development project, which will be one of the most exciting initiatives taking place in the Highlands and Islands over the next few years."

HI-WIDE, which is based in Alness, will not be installing the equipment themselves, but manage a small number of large-scale contracts with expert companies to do the actual work. HI-WIDE is already in the process of selecting its preferred suppliers. It is expected that contracts for this purpose will be let by the end of this year, for work to start as early as possible in 2004.

Two Project Field Officers have recently been appointed by HI-WIDE and will start work with communities developing the local networks next month.

List of Proposed Wireless "Exchanges"
Reay: Reay - Yes we know its not in Caithness any more but who's counting
North East: Barrock, John o Groats
Caithness East: Berriedale, Dunbeath, Latheronwheel, Lybster, Thrumster
Watten: Watten

Other Areas
Tobermory: Tobermory
Westray: Westray, Papa Westray
Acharacle: Salen, Acharacle, Ardshealach, Dalnabreck, Kentra
Achiltibuie: Reiff, Altandhu, Achnahaird, Polbain, Achiltibuie,
Badenscally, Tanera
Black Isle North: Culbokie, Cullicudden, Poyntzfield, Cromarty
Alves: Alves
Seaboard: Nigg, Fearn, Ballintore, Portmahomack
Barbreck: Barbreck
Islay: Bowmore, Port Charlotte, Port Askaig, Port Ellen, Portnahaven
Lochcarron: Lochcarron, Strathcarron, Attadale
Great Cumbrae: Millport
Mainland Orkney: Harray, Finstown
Strachur: Strachur, Glenbranter
Kinlochleven: Kinlochleven
Lochinver: Lochinver, Achmelvich, Strathan, Inverkirkaig
Sanday: Sanday
Ross of Mull: Iona, Foinnphort, Bunessan
Tayvallich: Tayvallich, Carsaig
Lairg: Lairg, Saval, Gruids
Lismore: Lismore
Colonsay: Colonsay (excluding Oronsay)
Shapinsay: Shapinsay
Rousay: Rousay, Egilsay, Wyre
Eday: Eday (excluding the west coast)
Hoy and Flotta: South East Hoy, South Walls and Flotta
Stronsay: Stronsay, Papa Stronsay, Rothiesholm
Tiree: Tiree
Gairloch: Gairloch, Badachro, South Erradale, North Erradale, Melvaig
Broadford: Torrin, Broadford, Heaste, Breakish
Skeabost: Clachamish, Bernisdale, Skeabost, Corbost, Borve, Kensaleyre

The actual installation of wireless broadband in these areas is subject to an extensive survey.  If it is found that in an area there are too many geographic constraints, or too little demand to justify the expense, HIE will have to reconsider inclusion of that particular area in the HI-WIDE rollout.

Areas previously announced and not included in this list are, as a result of concerns about the feasibility of reliable wireless operation, currently under review for inclusion in a wire based broadband project such as Exchange Activate.