Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Broadband in Shetland

It was with a wry smile that I read BT’s junk mail circular stuck through my letterbox last week, emblazoned with the question, “Does your broadband provider stand up to the test?” Well, no actually; I’m with BT broadband.

According to pledges from our government, the UK will have the best broadband provision in Europe by the end of the current parliament. Perhaps the soundbite-generating London-centric incumbents wouldn’t be so confident of their prophecy if they’d been accessing the internet from Shetland of late. The broadband service that BT have been offering has been truly abysmal in recent months – grindingly slow connection speeds, service outages and, most frustratingly, a refusal to recognise or admit to the problems.

Monday, 1 November 2010


Generally, the term decentralisation refers to dispersing political decision making away from centralised government and into the hands of local authorities and communities. The current UK government have embraced the concept - Greg Clark, the Minister of Decentralisation, is committed to devolving power from “Whitehall to town hall” and, thereafter, down to communities, and a pre-election David Cameron cited plans to grant local authorities a new “general power of competence”. The now Prime Minister followed up his pledge with, “They [local councils] can do anything they like as long as it’s legal”. These are potentially worrying governmental promises for anyone who has been following the antics at the Lerwick Town Hall over the past year or so.

In Shetland, however, decentralisation is more commonly used in reference to more tangible commodities, such as jobs and housing, and is often used in opposition to all things Lerwick-centric.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A moan about moaning

The Internet is the ideal way for the moaners of the world to get together and have a good old girn about whatever takes their non-fancy, comfortable in the knowledge that they won’t have to justify their opinions or provide the evidence or context that they would in a ‘real world’ discussion. Simply log on to Shetlink, Facebook, or (I made that up, before you go looking), spout your cathartic gripe and log off again feeling much better to have offloaded your cantankerousness on the world.

I’m not sure whether Shetlander’s are pre-programmed to lament – perhaps it’s the weather or dearly held nostalgia about our hardy ancestors’ hand to mouth existence – but given the idyllic landscapes and relatively high quality of life here, an onlooker would be forgiven for thinking we’d have a positive outlook.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Twitter and twats

Twitter? Tweeting? Unless you’ve used Twitter, they’re probably a phrases you’re sick of hearing. The best description of Twitter I can think of is that sending a ‘tweet’, a short text message, via Twitter is like sending a text message via your mobile phone - the difference is that on Twitter you usually use your computer to send and receive messages and the message you send is posted on the internet for all to see, not just sent to one recipient as is normally the case with your mobile.

Granted, that doesn’t sound too exciting, but the power lies in that you can subscribe to the ‘tweets’ of particular users, so you only receive updates from the people or organisations you wish. For example, you can subscribe to news websites who publish their headlines via Twitter, follow what your friends are up to, or keep up to date with the plethora of celebrities who insist on publishing the minutiae of their personal lives. In short, it’s a quick way to scan a number of sources for the information you’re interested in.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The campaign to Keep Instrumental Tuition Free in Shetland

Whilst I believe that the SIC’s recent decision to instigate charges for music instrument tuition in school’s needs to be reconsidered for a variety of reasons (a subject I shall return to another day), I have been heartened by how our young musicians have pulled together to exercise their democratic rights and protest against these charges using electronic communications and a variety of online tools.

The first time the proposal to instigate the charges was made public was in document which appeared on the council website a few days before the decision was taken on 17 February 2010 - the innocuously titled “General Fund Revenue Estimates & Council Tax Setting”. The 14 page report contained point that simply read “Introduce charges of £160 per annum for Instrumental Lessons, based on a middling charge compared with other councils, (yielding an extra £130,000)” – a point not considered important enough to warrant further explanation or its own mention on the agenda of the meeting, also published on the website.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Online Privacy

Not so long ago, the worst invasion you could expect of your privacy was a mildly embarrassing photo appearing in the Shetland Times on your birthday, supplemented with a cheeky poem that rhymed “thirty” with “shirty”, “forty” with “dorty” or “nifty” with “fifty”.

The mischievous yet well meaning friends and relatives who submit such salutations make sure nothing too embarrassing or compromising is published; a picture of the birthday boy or girl wearing an amusing hat, or a gap toothed snap of them as a child is the order of the day. And how we laugh as we gently poke fun at the photo-ee when we see them on the street, “Yun wis some pictir o dee in da paper on Friday!”