Western Isles online music school gets fired up for fibre

The roll-out of high speed fibre broadband to Scotland’s most westerly island group is music to the ears of one growing business in the Outer Hebrides

The roll-out of high speed fibre broadband to Scotland’s most westerly island group is music to the ears of one growing business in the Outer Hebrides.

Music teacher and islander Olwen MacLeod launched an online school ‘Your Space Music Lessons’ in 2014 from a base in Lochmaddy in North Uist. It is helping pupils from around the world learn a range of instruments.

Following a £146 million investment by Digital Scotland into a new fibre broadband network across the Highlands and Islands, the technology can now be ordered in Lochmaddy and the school has signed up for superfast broadband.

Olwen said: “At about the same time as the fibre infrastructure programme was approved, we set out to teach via video conference using a premium satellite broadband service – the idea being to sustain island living and reach out to others to learn.

“Taking lessons online is a fantastic way to combat rural isolation from mainstream music services.We knew fibre broadband was coming so we set up a teaching platform ready for it. Now it’s here and we already have over 200 pupils and a 14-strong music teaching team.

“The reduced cost of fibre compared to satellite services will benefit the school and allow it to develop its plans to promote tuition across isolated regions of Scotland and around the world. As well as across the UK, we currently operate in USA, Canada, Belgium, France, Iraq, Oman, and Russia.”

The online school teaches traditional instruments such as bagpipes and accordion as well as popular instruments such as the piano, guitar, violin, saxophone, flute and brass. To take lessons pupils need a laptop or large screen tablet and broadband speeds of at least 1.5 mega bits per second (Mbps) upload and download which can be checked at www.speedtest.net.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) leads the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband roll-out of fibre for the region. Alongside the private sector’s commercial coverage, the investment has seen access to fibre broadband in the region increase from four per cent in 2013 to more than 80 per cent today.

Fibre broadband offers fast and reliable broadband connections at speeds of up to 80Mbps* and there are many suppliers in the marketplace from which to choose.

Stuart Robertson, HIE’s director of digital, commented: “This project has brought mainstream high speed fibre to the Outer Hebrides for the first time. It’s great to see businesses like ‘Your Space Music Lessons’ already established online and so focused on how they can make the most of the new connectivity.”

The broadband project is funded by the Scottish Government, The UK Government, HIE and private sector partners BT, with engineers from Openreach, BT’s local network business, delivering on the ground.

Robert Thorburn, BT Scotland’s fibre broadband director, added: “Whether it’s transferring files, video streaming or accessing the cloud, the benefits to businesses in Scotland from superfast fibre are huge. The new, faster speeds are available to more than 92 per cent of households and business in Scotland already and I’d encourage people to upgrade as improvements are not automatic.”

Your Space Music Lessons, is one of a number of online enterprises benefitting the local island economy by bringing in business from all over the world, and it is hoped they can create further local employment for other music teachers in the Outer Hebrides.

Olwen concluded: ‘Now that fibre is here, we can embrace the learning and employment opportunities made available to us to sustain our heritage and community life.’

Find out more at www.yourspacemusiclessons.com

More details on the roll-out of fibre broadband and an interactive checker showing the services available are at www.hie.co.uk/whereandwhen