Kate Forbes: ‘Wall of silence’. ANGRY Black Isle broadband customers left without a connection for more than a fortnight are fuming that their frequent complaints have been ignored by their Lincolnshire-based provider. Businesses claim they have lost trade since the AB Internet service went down at the start of May and users say they have had difficulty getting any sensible explanation from the company.
The provider has blamed BT for the problem, but this week BT made it clear there was no fault in the area. Local MSP Kate Forbes has described the firm’s attitude as a “wall of silence”. Householders and businesses have turned to AB Internet’s radio service because they are unable to get a service through normal phone lines due to their rural location.
The company’s website promises that it delivers superfast broadband “across rural Britain”. Referring to the ongoing loss of service, Graham Clark, who lives at Easter Kinkell, said: “It’s very frustrating when you have no internet connection at home.
“The biggest problem is lack of communication from AB Internet.
“I must have phoned 10 times in the past fortnight and got no response.” Mr Clark said he had been a customer for six or seven years and was currently paying ?35 a month for the service. Kinkell House Hotel manager Jamie Maclennan said he had logged 21 calls with the company with “not a single call returned”.
“We have undoubtedly lost some business, it’s not acceptable in this day and age,” he said.
A conference booked at the hotel which needed a wi-fi connection had to be cancelled, with no guarantee that the organisers would re-book.
“It’s been terrible, and the support service has been non-existent,” he said.
“I have to drive to my parents’ house four times a day to pick up my emails to check bookings and we can’t take card payments from customers – it’s been terrible.”
AB Internet drew attention to the loss of broadband service on the Black Isle on its website on May 2, with a restoration date promised “in approximately three working days”. But as we went to press the service was still down. A Rootfield householder, who asked not to be named, said she believed hundreds of Black Isle people had been affected by the outtage.
She said: “There has been a total lack of communication from the provider. We received no information whatsover and it is blaming it on a BT – it’s disgusting.
“Last week we could at least get through to AB Internet, but this week you just get an engaged tone.”
The householder added: “I feel particularly sorry for the kids who are sitting their exams and won’t be able to get online.”
Furious postings from Black Islers on AB Internet’s Facebook page tell a similar sorry tale of woe about the lack of service in the past two weeks. Simon Jolly said on May 9: “It would appear the whole of the Black Isle is down with no sign of it coming up any time soon.
“Absolutely pathetic state of affairs.” Colin Lawrence, chairman of Ferintosh Community Council, highlighted the difficulties for residents with mobility issues who did their shopping online and were now unable to do so.
“It disrupts people’s lives when they don’t have an internet connection,” he said.
A BT spokesman said: “We have no faults on the Openreach network in those areas.
“Anyone with another service provider should report any faults to that provider.”
Black Isle constituency MSP Kate Forbes has escalated the issue in the Scottish Parliament. She said: “The last correspondence I had with the company was on Monday, May 8 when a member of staff at AB Internet promised my office that the internet service would resume within five working days. This has not happened.
“Since then I have left voicemails and written emails to AB Internet but have had no response at all.”
She added there hadn’t been Facebook updates by the company since Wednesday, May 10.
“It is completely unacceptable to be putting up a wall of silence to paying customers when AB Internet’s service is not delivering,” she said.
Repeated attempts to contact AB Internet for a comment were unsuccessful.
Slow broadband speeds have an impact on businesses. WOEFUL broadband speeds in the Black Isle and wider Ross-shire area are causing problems for business and people claiming benefits, a local MP fears. Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Ian Blackford has called for more to be done to tackle broadband after he unearthed figures which show that the area has the slowest average data rates in Scotland.
Despite millions of pounds of investment in the constituency’s web infrastructure two-thirds of residents still have broadband with an average speed lower than 10 megabytes per second (Mbps) – making it the second worst in the UK, behind only Carmarthen East in Wales.
And Mr Blackford argues that this has caused problems for people on the Universal Credit, which requires claimants to use a website to make claims, fill in journals and keep records up to date.
The red on the map reveals the poor broadband performance experienced in much of Ross-shire
A ROSS-SHIRE parliamentary constituency has been revealed as having the lowest average broadband speeds in Scotland. Figures compiled by the House of Commons Library reveal that Ross, Skye and Lochaber has the poorest broadband speed in Scotland and is second lowest in the UK as a whole, ahead only of Carmarthen East, in Wales. The hard stats have been seized upon by the area’s MP, Ian Blackford, who is demanding action over an issue he says puts his constituents at a major disadvantage and effectively bars access to a number of services taen for granted by most people.
Compiled using data based on analysis of Ofcom’s postcode-level open data, the information was collected from major fixed telecoms operators (BT, Virgin Media, Sky, Talk Talk, Vodafone and KCOM). It also included coverage information provided by alternative network providers (Gigaclear, Hyperoptic, IFNL, B4RN and Relish). It indicates that 66 per cent of the constituency is unable to receive speeds of up to 10 megabits per second (Mbps), the minimum required to usefully access programs such as on-line banking or shopping websites, putting these users at a disadvantage. Ian Blackford said: “I have been in regular contact with senior BT officials for some time to remedy what constituents have been telling me on the issue of connectivity, or lack of it. I congratulate the House of Commons Library on compiling and collating this information, which underlines the case I have been making.
“A strong and fast internet connection is more important than ever to people throughout this constituency, especially in more remote areas with poor or no public transport links and those trying to run a business or access the new Universal Credit website.
Ian Blackford MP: ‘We must find a solution’
“I have hosted meetings in the constituency with senior BT managers and engineers who are looking at the roll-out of new technologies which could have wide-ranging benefits. We must find a solution to this situation as soon as possible”. This has already created problems for people on the Universal Credit, benefits which requires claimants to use their website to make claims, fill in journals and keep their records up to date. Even more users will be adversely affected by poor internet connection when it rolls out across Ross, Skye and Lochaber from July, the MP warns.
Across the UK, the report shows that the average connection speed is 37.8 Mbps, while in Ross, Skye and Lochaber it is just 14.4 Mbps. Only 13 per cent of constituents can access superfast (30Mbps+) connections, compared with 41 per cent across the UK. The report concludes: “The 66 per cent of connections receiving slower speeds (under 10 Mbps) is higher than any other constituency”.
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