Music lessons from Lochmaddy go global

The roll-out of high speed fibre broadband in North Uist has been music to the ears of one local business.

Music teacher Olwen MacLeod launched online school ‘Your Space Music Lessons’ in 2014 in Lochmaddy and is now 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.

The online school teaches traditional instruments such as bagpipes and accordion as well as instruments including 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 upload and download.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 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.

Olwen (pictured left) 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.”

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 and UK governments, 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, said: “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.”