Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch candidate, and Highland Councillor, Angela MacLean is calling on BT and the Scottish Government to put remote communities on the Islands and across the Highlands at the top of the list for the next round of broadband funding.
According to a provisional Ofcom report, published last week, BT will be allowed to hold on to the cable network ‘Openreach’. The announcement comes amidst complaints from competitors and rural communities that the company’s monopoly of the network has failed to deliver for customers.
In 2014/15 Openreach contributed to 41% of BT’s profit (EBITDA) - more than twice that from selling phone, internet and TV services to customers at home.
Despite paying the same surplus as homes across the country, residents on Skye were left with barely functioning broadband as some claimed that broadband speeds dropped to as low as 0.03Mbps over the festive season.
On top of this, only 84% of premises in the Highlands & Islands will be covered under the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, funded by the UK and Scottish Governments, compared 95% target across Scotland as a whole, delivered by 2018.
Angela said: “It is even more important to have a good and working connection in remote communities. The worst affected should be at the front of the queue for broadband investment, not left behind.
“Speaking to people on Skye and smaller communities all over the Highlands, one of the top issues is decent broadband. Many people rely on a good service for their businesses - or to keep in touch with family and friends.
“A poor service or serious breakdown, like those that took place on Skye this winter, can be very frustrating and leave people isolated. It is now time to start looking at whether BT’s control over Openreach should continue. The regulator Ofcom rightly have stated that Openreach should be separated from the commercial wing of BT.
“Our Highland communities have a lot to offer, and the region as a whole has huge potential for taking advantage of online industries. We need BT and the Scottish Government to see that as an opportunity and prioritise funding for the worst black-spots.”
“At the same time we are seeing services that we take for granted, like the DVLA and the NHS, move online. Only this week BBC 3 moved to online only broadcasting.
“BT have had significant investment from public funding to support the development of superfast broadband, but they have failed to deliver for Skye and the Highlands. Addressing these challenges will require a collective effort from BT, stakeholders like HIE and all levels of local and national government.”