Simon Helliwell founded Hebnet in 2010 with the help of a University of a Edinburgh project that helps rural groups set up local networks by accessing leased-line ’backhaul’ from the mainland and distributing it around the island.
Before Hebnet was created, Eigg and the other Small Isles or Rhum, Muck and Canna were served by a succession of US based satellite companies who would beam signal to a chain of relay points on the island.
These relay points were powered by the nearest house, meaning that - because there was no centralised electricity grid at the time - if your neighbour ran out of fuel or switched off their generator, parts of the island lost their internet connection. The satellite companies often went bust, so neither the residents or the business on the island could rely on internet access.
Hebnet now a fully operational co-op, distributing network speeds faster than you’d get consistently in most UK cities.
Simon Kindly agreed to be interviewed on the Ferry back to Mallaig, where he talked about the need for community run start-ups in a world where Eigg is too small to be commercially profitable for outside companies.