Isles broadband falls even further behind

Not a single island household has been connected through the R100 rollout programme.Not a single island household has been connected through the R100 rollout programme.
Not a single island household has been connected through the R100 rollout programme.
​Not a single Western Isles property has been connected to high speed broadband as a result of the R100 scheme which is supposed to ensure coverage in “harder to reach” parts of Scotland.

​A Freedom of Information response has revealed that of the thousands of successful connections so far, none are in the Western Isles, reviving fears that the islands have been pushed to the end of the queue.

In November 2021, it was revealed that as the programme then stood, 2000 properties in the Western Isles would not be included within the full fibre digital infrastructure and would be reliant on vouchers to make their own arrangements.

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Another 2000 connections had been pushed back from 2021 to 2025-28 after the Scottish Government handed responsibility for running the programme to BT Openreach who drew up their own priorities without community consultation.

However, the figures which have now emerged confirm what was widely predicted – the voucher scheme has proved totally unusable while BT Openreach were left to establish the priorities.

Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP, Donald Cameron, who lodged the Freedom of Informtion request warned that the low priority given to improving internet connections in the islands will “harm people and businesses” for years to come.

The information Mr Cameron secured shows there have been more than 27,000 connections since the launch of R100 including 8756 in the North region. However a breakdown reveals zero premises in the Western Isles are included, either through the contract build or the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme.

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Mr Cameron said: “People across the Western Isles won’t be surprised to learn they’ve been failed by the Scottish Government yet again. Whether it’s ferries, fishing or internet connection, this central-belt obsessed coalition simply doesn’t care about life on the islands.

“We warned when this budget was cut by the SNP and Greens last year that it would slow down progress. Now people and businesses in the Western Isles must look on while the rest of the country receives improved broadband service”.

Donald Crichton, chairman of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s sustainable development committee, said: “The R100 programme is not fit for purpose when it comes to connecting the most peripheral areas. Despite our efforts to convince the Scottish Government that this programme should be rolled out from the areas that need connectivity the most, our representations have been ignored.

“The fact there are zero connections through the R100 programme speaks for itself. We will continue to make representations to the Scottish Government”.

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A Scottish Government web-site still states: “Bringing superfast broadband to Scotland is one of the most ambitious infrastructure programmes in Europe. The Scottish Government committed to enabling access to superfast broadband – speeds of at least 30Mbps – to every home and business in Scotland by 2021”.