Homes quoted £725,000 to fork out for broadband connection


BT has quoted a community of 15 Shetland homes £725,000 to get connected to the broadband network, Shetland’s MSP and Scottish Liberal Democrat, Beatrice Wishart has revealed. Wishart has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy after being contacted by constituents facing broadband issues.

Wishart also used the opportunity of writing to the Cabinet Secretary to quote back the Scottish Government’s findings that were released to Ms Wishart by written answers that out of more than 1800 properties only four applications have been received for the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (R100 SBVS) main voucher, set up by the Scottish Government to connect homes not included in the current workplan for fibre connection, and only three have so far been issued.

Wishart has previously raised the unequal situation in Whalsay. Public money will be spent installing a subsea cable to the island for superfast fibre broadband, yet residents in Isbister, Nisthouse or Skaw will be excluded.

In her letter to the Cabinet Secretary Ms Wishart stated:

Out of more than 1800 properties only four applications have been received for the main voucher, and only three have so far been issued.

For those that need a fibre connection the quoted costs from commercial providers are beyond belief. A constituent has shared with me a recent quote from BT of £725,000. This is after the deduction of support grants from Ofcom and works out to around £48,000 each for the 15 properties in the community. This is clearly unaffordable.

The communication infrastructure across Shetland needs upgrading for the digital world and R100 has proven to be a missed opportunity for many of my constituents. In one example a property remains 8km from the nearest telephone exchange, with Openreach advising that the ideal length even for a landline connection is limited to 6km. At this distance the landline is unreliable, and may even fail completely, so there is no hope of a broadband connection without further support.

On broadband in Shetland Ms Wishart said:

“Islanders are limited in a modern world by the digital constraints that the Scottish Government is leaving us with.

“The lack of connectivity affects residents ability to complete everyday online tasks like banking, schoolwork and online classes, running a business from home or simply staying connected to the digital world we live in.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about improving lives and encouraging economic growth in rural areas and islands like Shetland they need to get serious about broadband rollout leaving no community behind.

“The Scottish Government like to point to the Broadband Voucher Scheme to argue they are meeting their promises under the R100 Programme, but their own figures show that there have only been four applications out of more than 1800 households in Shetland that the main programme excluded.

“The original deadline the SNP set itself at the start of the last Parliament has long since passed and I will continue to raise constituency digital connectivity issues for as long as they arise.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

 

Ms Wishart's written questions and the Scottish Government's answer can be found here and here.

The content of the letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Kate Forbes MSP:

Dear Kate,

I continue to receive correspondence from my constituents about the failings of the Scottish Government’s R100 Programme. The homes and business in Shetland that were excluded from R100 are now missing out on any additional support. Whilst I appreciate that the power to legislate for telecommunications is reserved to the UK Government the practical delivery of broadband roll-out is led by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It therefore remains the responsibility of the Scottish Government to ensure that communities receive the superfast connections that they were promised as part of the R100 Programme.

Figures provided in response to a Parliamentary Question (S6W-08539) indicate that, as of May 2022, 1,847 properties in Shetland still remained out-with the scope of the R100 programme, or existing commercial plans, and will be reliant on the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS). As you will recall from my previous correspondence the SBVS is a poor substitute for a fixed fibre connection, particularly in Shetland where there are only a limited number of installers and fewer commercial options to ensure a continued service after any initial contract. What my constituents need is a fast and reliable fibre-broadband connection that will allow them to shop around for the best service, something that most of the country take for granted.

Out of more than 1800 properties only four applications have been received for the main voucher, and only three have so far been issued. It is not clear whether this is due to a lack of awareness about the voucher scheme or a lack of enthusiasm from local residents due to the limitations of the SBVS and its “do-it-yourself” approach.

It is increasingly clear that the Scottish Government’s contract for the R100 programme failed to take the “outside-in” approach that was necessary to ensure that the needs of our island communities were met. Over 1800 properties in Shetland have missed out on a programme that was designed to “Reach 100%”. In some cases, as with the island of Whalsay that I recently raised with you, (Your Ref: 202200280954) the programme has simply not gone far enough, creating arbitrary dividing lines across communities.

For those that need a fibre connection the quoted costs from commercial providers are beyond belief. A constituent has shared with me a recent quote from BT of £725,000. This is after the deduction of support grants from Ofcom and works out to around £48,000 each for the 15 properties in the community. This is clearly unaffordable.

The communication infrastructure across Shetland needs upgrading for the digital world and R100 has proven to be a missed opportunity for many of my constituents. In one example a property remains 8km from the nearest telephone exchange, with Openreach advising that the ideal length even for a landline connection is limited to 6km. At this distance the landline is unreliable, and may even fail completely, so there is no hope of a broadband connection without further support.

This lack of connectivity affects my constituents ability to complete school work, attend online classes, run business from home and simply stay connected.

I look forward to your response to these concerns.

Yours


Share this post on social media:

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.