BT has started diverting a subsea fibre broadband cable to the Isles of Scilly in a bid to make the archipelago one of the best connected remote communities in the world.
The month-long project, set to cost £3.7 million, will bring a fixed internet connection to the islands for the first time.
In order to deliver fixed broadband to the islands, a 12,000 tonne cable ship called Resolute has cut an existing undersea cable that runs between Spain and the UK at two points in the Atlantic - about 100km and 15km off Lands End - and diverted a section to the Isles of Scilly, located 28 miles from mainland UK.
Today the fibre optic cable was brought ashore at Porthcressa Beach on St Mary's, the largest of the five Scilly islands, and connected to the local network. BT said it expects that the islanders will be able to order high-speed fibre broadband from a variety of providers before the end of the year.
The 939km cable between Porthcurno, Cornwall, and Santander, Spain, has been lying defunct on the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean since it was taken out of service in 2006 after 11 years of handling high-speed international communications.
The project is part of the £132 million Superfast Cornwall initiative between the European Regional Development Fund, BT and Cornwall Council, which plans to make fibre broadband available to 95 percent of homes and premises on Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the end of 2014. It aims to make 60-80 Mbps fibre broadband available to 95 percent of homes and premises on Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the end of 2014.
Until now, the 2,200 residents of the Isles of Scilly have had to make do with the 2-3Mbps broadband service provided by a radio link between Lands End and the islands.
Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director for Cornwall Development Company, the economic development company of Cornwall Council, said: “Superfast broadband will provide a major boost for local businesses and offer the kind of online opportunities, which would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
"Businesses on Scilly might be located in one of the most remote – and beautiful – parts of the UK, but they will be right at the centre of the superfast broadband revolution in some of the best connected islands in the world.”
Jeremy Steventon-Barnes, Superfast Cornwall operations director for BT, said: “Bringing superfast broadband to the Isles of Scilly is an immensely challenging project for a wide range of engineering and environmental reasons, and a big team from across BT is working with our public sector partners to make it happen.
"The fact that we have been able to make use of an existing cable makes a great deal of sense from an environmental and cost point of view."