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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 00:44 GMT
Row over isles broadband roll-out
Connected Communities has still to be rolled out on Barra
Connected Communities, a publicly funded scheme to roll-out wireless broadband on the Western Isles, has met with fierce opposition on Barra.

Residents argue money would be better spent upgrading telephone exchanges for BT to provide cheaper and faster internet services.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said it was dealing with a number of objections and complaints.

It plans to meet Northbay Community Council on Barra later this month.

Connected Communities is backed by HIE, the local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles and receives funding from the European Union.

When launched as a pilot in 2002, it cost 1.5m.

However, HIE said the total expenditure would run to 7.6m over three phases. It said the project has remained within budget to date.

The work will also deliver higher bandwidth services to the local authority under the Scottish Government's Pathfinder for schools scheme.

'Vital tool'

A resident who contacted BBC Scotland said lower cost and faster connections would be provided to islanders through the upgrade of BT exchanges, than the deal being offered by Connected Communities.

HIE said it did not have information on the cost of enabling BT exchanges in Northbay, but said the transfer of funds would mean having to begin a new procurement process.

The agency said no work on masts to provide the wireless connection is scheduled to start before the proposed meeting between the comhairle and community council at the end of the month.

The Scottish Government could not comment specifically on the Barra situation, but said broadband was an "increasingly vital tool" for business.

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