Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has written to the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, seeking a meeting on the future rollout of the R100 Fibre Broadband Programme and the current connectivity crisis experienced by the community of Uig, on the Isle of Lewis.
Councillor Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, has written to Mr Swinney requesting his intervention to resolve the ongoing issues around Broadband and seeking that infrastructure is designed with the most rural communities the priority and at the heart of any rollout.
In his letter Mr Crichtion said: “Earlier this year I wrote to your colleague Kate Forbes, expressing the Comhairle’s concerns regarding the delay in the rollout of R100 to the most rural areas and indeed the failure of the voucher scheme of which there has been little up take.
It is very disappointing to note that the Outer Hebrides sits towards the latter end of the R100 North Lot contract with deployments not anticipated until 2025.
Ms Forbes in her response assured me that the Scottish Government would work strategically with the Comhairle and with suppliers to ensure we maximise the reach of the scheme as far as possible. In that spirit, I would be grateful for your intervention particularly given the connectivity problems the community of Uig on the Isle of Lewis has suffered in recent months. This situation is becoming very serious with health and social care, emergency services and the education of young people in the community becoming increasingly compromised. There is real concern that lives could be put at risk if the connectivity issues are not resolved.”
Councillor Crichton continued: “While I understand the supplier EE is making efforts to resolve the situation, this breakdown of connectivity highlights an inadequate infrastructure that the R100 programme goes nowhere near resolving. If the whole point of this programme is to connect our remotest communities surely they should be the priority and the planning for such services should be from that perspective rather than communities fighting depopulation being the last in the queue for this rollout?"
He concluded: “The situation in Uig is having a damaging impact across the whole community and needs to be addressed urgently. I should be grateful if we could meet with you to discuss this further and how the current programme can be redesigned so that those whose very survival as communities now depends on good strong fibre broadband can be assured that the Scottish Government is doing everything it can to resolve this situation.”