The Superfast Cornwall scheme has announced £3.7 million plans to bring faster broadband to the Isles of Scilly by moving an underwater cable to connect the archipelago.
Fibre optic cables, which have remained unused on the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean for about three years, are to be diverted to the islands as part of the £132 million Superfast Cornwall initiative which aims to bring faster broadband scheme to the Duchy.
The partnership between BT and Cornwall Council has already upgraded half of homes and businesses on the mainland but connecting the Scillies has long been regarded as one of the most challenging aspects of the European-funded scheme.
It is expected that the first Isles of Scilly customers will be connected during the first half of 2014. A cable ship is due to spend about a month later this year cutting and moving two cables, which had previously been used for communications between the UK and Ireland and Spain.
Until now, the 2,200 residents of the Isles of Scilly – located 28 miles off the South West tip of Cornwall – have had to make do with a broadband service provided by a radio link between Lands End and the Isles.
People on all five of Scilly's inhabited islands are expected to benefit from the latest investment.
Nigel Ashcroft, Superfast Cornwall programme director for Cornwall Development Company, said: "The project to deliver fibre optic broadband for the Isles of Scilly will be one of the most important steps forward for the islands for many years. It will be truly life-changing for businesses on the isles, enabling them to be better connected to existing customers and colleagues and opening the door to doing business in more markets across the world. We believe superfast broadband will fuel economic growth on the islands by helping existing firms become more efficient and enabling them to seize new market opportunities and by also sparking more start-up businesses. This means more local jobs and a stronger, more sustainable economy for Scilly."
Ranulf Scarbrough, Superfast Cornwall programme director for BT, said: "BT engineers have devised a highly innovative and environmentally-friendly scheme to bring fibre broadband to the islands that is pioneering in every sense of the word. It is certainly the most ambitious initiative of its kind ever undertaken in UK waters and probably in Europe."
Cllr Mike Hicks, chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, said: "We are delighted that a solution has been found to give our islands the best broadband access. The Isles of Scilly's communications with the UK mainland and beyond are a key part of creating a better, more prosperous future for islanders and will allow this vibrant community to take full advantage of its unique location. Faster broadband will underpin our tourist trade, will help our farmers and growers and will promote distance learning. New business opportunities will be stimulated on the islands, encouraging local productivity and enhancing our quality of life."