Category: Sutherland

Reference Library – Scotland – Sutherland Broadband

Councillor claims slow broadband is damaging Sutherland economy 0

Councillor claims slow broadband is damaging Sutherland economy

Linda Munro is angry with BT Openreach A VETERAN Sutherland councillor has accused BT Openreach of stymieing technological and business advancement in the county because of the “poor level” of service it provides. Linda Munro claims the area enjoyed a better service from the telecoms provider 30 years ago than it does today. Cllr Munro, who represents North, West and Central Sutherland, spoke out after senior BT Openreach managers failed for a second time to appear at a meeting of Sutherland County Committee to discuss growing concerns.

Councillors are now writing to BT Scotland chief Brendan Dick to express their “severe disappointment” at what is being seen as a snub to Sutherland. Cllr Munro, the newly-elected chairman of the committee, said: “The communities across Sutherland all speak highly of the engineers on the ground, but this is about the management of the workload and investment in our infrastructure. In short, it’s about delivering a fit-for-purpose service. “Thirty years ago if your phone went off, it got fixed.” However, BT has said the reasons for the non-attendance were valid and it is working closely with Sutherland communities to provide superfast broadband.

Frustration over months of delays by BT Openreach in repairing lost phone and broadband connections and also in establishing new connections has been slowly building up across the county. There is also anger over low broadband speeds. Cllr Munro said this week that disgruntled Sutherland residents were in constant contact with her and fellow councillors regarding telecoms issues.

She said: “There is a lot of upset in different pockets of the area and we all know of examples within our two wards. Every one of us have communities where the stories are just horrific.” Cllr Munro added it was particularly concerning when vulnerable, older people in remote and rural areas were affected and ambitious plans to progress the delivery of tele-medicine and tele-care in the area could not go ahead without reliable phone and broadband connections. Tele-medicine – the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology – is viewed as a solution to provide care in remote areas where GP recruitment and retention is a problem.

Cllr Munro also claimed the telecoms problems were deterring businesses from setting up in or relocating to the north. She continued: “The development of tele-medicine and tele-care is dependent on sustainable communications but at the moment that is just castles in the sand.” In a bid to talk over the issues with BT Scotland, Sutherland County Committee issued an invitation to attend its February meeting, but representatives were unable to. A second invitation was issued to attend the June 23 meeting, but no-one turned up.

An apology was received as the meeting was under way. Cllr Munro said: “For the second time running BT has not taken up the opportunity to send a representative to Sutherland County Committee so elected members can hold face-to-face discussions and raise issues and concerns on behalf of their constituents. “We are troubled that for the second time in a row BT has not deemed the ongoing concerns of our constituents or status of our committee worthy of attending. “All Sutherland members are united on this issue and we will be sending a letter to BT expressing our severe disappointment on how the folk of Sutherland are being treated and requesting that its chief executive take the concerns of our communities seriously and comes along to our next meeting.” A BT Scotland spokesman said the decision by the county committee to send out a news release castigating BT for not attending the two meetings was “surprising and unfortunate” as on both occasions the committee was provided with reasons and apologies. He said: “On the first occasion Openreach’s senior operations manager for the area could not accept the offer to meet on the date and made the committee aware of this. “And on the second occasion our representative did not attend because a personal emergency arose at the last minute.

Again the committee was informed of this and an offer was made to set up a separate meeting at which all issues of concern could be discussed. “Unfortunately there has been no response to this offer but it remains on the table and we will be happy to take part in a future meeting.”

More than 90 per cent of Scotland has access to superfast broadband 0

More than 90 per cent of Scotland has access to superfast broadband

Connectivity in the Highlands and islands still lags behind the national average Telephone box in Oykel Bridge, Sutherland – Image credit: Phillip Capper via Wikimedia Commons More than 90 per cent of premises in Scotland now have access to superfast broadband. Over 750,000 Scottish homes and businesses can connect to fibre broadband through the £428m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme. In the Highlands and islands the coverage is slightly below average, at 84 per cent, with coverage in the region expected to reach 86 per cent by the end of the year.

Digital Scotland is being delivered through two projects, which are led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in its area and the Scottish Government in the rest of Scotland. Other funding partners include the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), BT, local authorities and the EU via the European Regional Development Fund. RELATED CONTENT Commenting on progress, Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “The programme is reaching more communities than originally planned and will continue to do so in the coming months. “However, local people need to sign up for the new, faster services with an internet service provider, as upgrades are not automatic. “I am of course aware that many homes and businesses do not yet have access. “Under the further R100 contract, we will be proceeding with the next phase of our pledge to enable access to broadband for every home and business to Scotland within the lifetime of this Scottish Parliament.” The Scottish Government has pledged that all homes and businesses in Scotland will have superfast broadband available to them by 2021 with an interim target of 95 per cent by the end of this year.

However, Audit Scotland report last year warned that with the easier areas connected first, those left to complete are some of the most challenging.

Regarding the Highlands and islands, he said: “The Highlands and Islands project is one of the most challenging broadband infrastructure roll-outs in Europe. “When it started only four per cent of the region’s premises could access next generation broadband. “Every day roll-out reaches increasingly remote communities and smaller and smaller groups of homes, including locations like the island of Scalpay in the Outer Hebrides, and villages like Lonmore and Roskhill in Skye.” “The Scottish Government is committed to delivering 100 per cent superfast broadband access across Scotland by 2021 and plans are currently being developed to ensure that this is the case. “During the summer months our existing programme will continue to advance across the country, bringing high speed broadband to new rural communities.”

Highlanders dig in to bring broadband to their rural homes 0

Highlanders dig in to bring broadband to their rural homes

It is the technology of the future, made possible by some old fashioned elbow grease. Residents in some of Scotland’s most remote locations are helping to dig trenches in order to enjoy some of the fastest broadband speeds anywhere in the UK. In what is an unlikely marriage of cutting edge telecommunications and hard graft, homeowners in isolated Highland communities are helping to excavate soil to make way for ultrafast fibre.

The emerging technology, a vast improvement on normal broadband, promises to transform the way we use the internet, with download speeds of up to 330Mbps, nearly a tenfold increase on the current UK average of 36.2Mbps. Thanks to the use of full-fibre cables, instead of copper, it will allow people to download a two hour-long HD film in just 90 seconds. Crucially, it is also seen as a major boon for fragile rural economies.

As part of the rollout of the new network, which hopes to connect 12 million households by 2020, two such areas in Sutherland – Altnaharra and Skerray – will be among the first to benefit. The installation of the network is being carried out by Openreach, a subsidiary of BT. It said the work in some of Scotland’s most northernmost communities represents a crucial stage, which will inform its strategy over the coming years.

Clive Selley, the firm’s chief executive, said a “new concept” was being used in both areas, with new nodes from the main fibre spine being spun out in order to connect outlying properties. He explained: “As our core fibre spines penetrate even deeper into rural Scotland, it brings new opportunities to improve broadband speeds for remote communities. “The two pilot communities will see their broadband speeds jump dramatically, as well as improvements to their existing services, so this is a win-win situation. “We’ll test how we can use the spines to reach very rural communities, and the distances over which we can use fibre effectively. Our learning from these innovative trials will inform our wider fibre strategy and could potentially help us to reach other very remote communities.” Workers on Altnaharra estate are helping to dig in the new cable to 45 houses, with the cable laying – carried out to Openreach’s specifications – linking up to around 100 properties in the hamlet of Skerray.

As well as increasing speeds, the work will address a high fault rate in Skerray where existing copper cables buried under a nearby beach have been damaged by lightning strikes. It is expected both communities will be connected to the new full-fibre network by the autumn. Although ultrafast fibre is only available in a few locations across the country, a report by the communications watchdog, Ofcom, found the majority of areas with the service enjoyed average download speeds of 300Mbps.

Some areas, its Connected Nation study found, had speeds of up to 1000Mbps.

An ultrafast trial in parts of Edinburgh and Glasgow also went live earlier this month, allowing up to 16,900 households to sign up for the service.