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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Homes Quoted £725,000 to Fork Out for Broadband Connection

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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.”

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