Thursday, 7 July 2011

Café Connect 2 – Monday 4th July, Bonar Bridge

Arriving in Scrabster I thought it was only right to ‘tick off’ the most northerly point on mainland UK; John O’ Groats.

Not only is John O’Groats the most depressing and toot-tastic place in Scotland, it turns out its not even the most northerly point. In both the natural beauty and the northerly claim-to-fame stakes, Dunnet Head wins.

Dr Arjuna Sathiaseelan (dot.rural Communications Engineering Research Fellow) led the second Café Connect talk on ‘Pervasive Internet: Rural reality or pipe dream?’ at the Bonar Bridge Community Hall, with free tea and biscuits laid on.

Arjuna’s engaging talk spanned the complete evolution of the Internet as we currently know it; the difference between the internet and the Internet; and what the online future promises.

He also suggested that satellite technologies, although often seen as a last resort for fast, next generation connection, may actually be an appropriate option for remote and/or rural communities (linking into the dot.rural SIRA, DART and ASSURE Enterprise and Culture projects).

The lively debate that followed included…
- Issues associated with satellite broadband: What happens if a sea gull lands on your satellite dish? Will a satellite Internet connection still hold out during heavy snowfall?
- Real concerns regarding the affordability of satellite broadband for an area like Sutherland with lower than average salaries: An introductory price of ~£30/month was deemed too high, even for a converged (e.g. TV, radio, telephone and broadband) service.
- With Sutherland being the “least populated area in Europe” (~1 person/2.2 square miles) what alternative broadband technologies are feasible for local communities?
- The frustration experienced with current download speeds and concerns over any potential impact on feelings of isolation associated with a change to the current broadband provision.

John McMurray (Community Outreach Worker, Bridge Project, Dornoch Firth Group) attended the talk and, as a result, is particularly keen to liaise with our dot.rural Co-Investigators leading the SIRA project (Prof Claire Wallace and Prof Gorry Fairhurst) exploring potential community case study opportunities. John also mentioned similar community initiatives such as Cybermoor and Wray (both well known to dot.rural) and the Renfrewshire Council of Voluntary Services’ broadband project (previously off dot.rural’s radar!).

Quote from an audience member: “Its not the technology that matters, it’s the way people use it.”


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