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The truths they don't want you to read....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Disconnected communities

A circular letter from Peter Peacock makes its way into my inbox...

9 February 2009

Dear Constituent

I refer to our previous correspondence concerning broadband provision in the Western Isles.

Many constituents in the area have complained to me about a number of issues including pricing, the terms and conditions and the general speed and standard of the service being provided.

I have made a number of representations to Scottish Ministers, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Connected Communities, and to BT.

The position we are in at the present time is that no more public funding is to be awarded for improvements to the service and BT has made it clear that their next actions will await the rollout of their 21 Century Network in the area in around 2011 or 2012. (my emphasis)

That will bring access up to 16 to 24 Mbs to local exchanges.

It is my belief that we need to make the case for the Western Isles to be made a priority in that programme for early investment and to try to ensure that it is not put to the end of the investment programme, as would be the normal pattern for less populated areas where there is a lower market return.

I have recently met with BT and made that point to them.

I would be grateful for your views on this matter.

I enclose a postcard you can return to me and the responses will assist in framing a case for earlier investment.

If we don't try, we won't get any improvement in the current investment plans and I would be obliged if you would complete and return the postcard to me if you want to lend support to building a case.

Yours sincerely

Some basic questions arise from this message:
  • If you were promised Broadband as part of Connected Communities, is this now ever going to happen?
  • Will storm damage be repaired, or will a bad gale be force majeur to cancel the contract from under you?
  • When the BT roll-out happens how close to the front of the queue will the Western Isles be? Hint: end of a long, long line.
  • How many potential residents will we lose due to unavailability of the promised broadband?
How could something so potentially good go so badly wrong........


Anonymous said...

As owner of a one man business I am tempted to say it has gone wrong as it is happenning on the islands. So much, which is so simple, seems to get cocked up through incompetence, and the money vanishes for it to be corrected.

Trying to be more positive I want a reliable system, without grumpy and often aggresive staff at the other end of a helpline(if you get through), a system that isn't down for 5 days without explanation.

I want a system that will support my business and help it thrive, rather than constricting it. i want choice like teh rest of the nation.

Why cant HIE and BT sit down and fund a proper system for the islands? This time make the customer the priority, not Donnie Morrisons MBEs pocket.

Anonymous said...

ConCom has already had a negative effect on the islands. Alas, the Comhairle, who let's be honest collectively do not have a clue about how people work in the knowledge economy, are hopeless in this respect. One smooth talker with a few powerpoint slides, and they are handing over millions on a service that is the laughing stock of the broadband sector.

On this island, we have had two families (people with children which would have helped the school roll) who were serious about moving here. But didn't, because of the lack of broadband. They understand how essential it is. The Comhairle do not. FAILCOUNCIL. Instead, only pensioners have moved here for the last few years.

The service was never going to work. The MOD people on the range, who are experienced with this technology, knew that. Putting a chain of exposed relay masts up in an environment that is prone to storms is something more becoming from an episode of Father Ted.

Still, the consultants on the mainland made millions of pounds out of it, and all those flights they and the repairers took helped keep the planes busy and flight ticket prices high. So that's okay then.

Bottom line. The Comhairle could have paid a tiny fraction of the cost of ConCom to have the remaining phone exchanges upgraded. But they didn't. More money wasted than in BCCI.

Anonymous said...

MBE? Making Broadband Extortionate?

Anonymous said...

How much for this "competitive service"? My cousin on the mainland is paying 10 quid a month for 8 Meg, and gets no less than 3 Meg. He's had less than an hour of downtime in the last year. He still thinks he is paying too much and is shopping around for a cheaper deal.

Here, it's £78.29 per month for a maximum of 2 Meg. Reliability is a well-documented, unfunny, joke.

No sane business person who needs broadband for orders, enquiries, customers, receiving or despatching files, would risk setting up under these conditions.

Anonymous said...

The whole sham is based on stringing people along. "There's been a delay. There'll be coverage in your area in a few months."

Repeat in a few months. Continue the cycle for several years.

Aren't the Comhairle ashamed that in 2009 there are still communities in their area without broadband? While many communities in more remote parts of Europe have been saved with this technology.

As part of my job I have observed several businesses move here from the mainland, then move back, defeated by the lack of promised technology. Worse, I have watched local businesses leave here for the mainland to be more competitive.

I am relieved I do not have to use the service and can use the office computer for all my needs.

Anyone who believes anything ConCom says after several years of broken promises is corrupt or a fool.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realise that schmucks were paying £78.29 per month for ConCom rip-off. I would expect to have my windows cleaned and my gas bill paid in addition to 800 mega tons of broadband each month. Money Morrison must get home and laugh his head off every night and then plan his retirement on Mustique. I would suggest that anyone who subscribes to this scam drops it like a very hot potato (unless you are locked into it on a 400 year contract!) and look elsewhere to access broadband. BT is cheaper (much, much, cheaper) and the speed is adequate unless you want to download a screening of Gone with the Wind.

PS I do not work for BT.

Anonymous said...

That's a very good suggestion, Ms Pudding. With the rather massive iceberg-sized-gash-in-Titanic-side hole that the reason ConCom can afford to charge £78.29 for a pathetic 2Mb speed is that THEY HAVE NO COMPETITION. As the standard line from them to complainers is, "If you don'tlike it, go with someone else". Knowing there is no other option...

Anonymous said...


The whole point of this argument is that many of us have no other option, BT or otherwise. Though I'm disappointed with the speed, reliability and extortionateness of ConCom, I do at least have it, and where I am, I would certainly not have had BT broadband by now, in any parallel universe. Full sympathy with those who are still waiting for any solution - I steam on your behalf.

Btw I think it's a bit simple-minded to suggest that Donnie Morrison is pocketing the profits! C'mon folks - the £78.29 doesn't go to him, y'know... it's clearly a vastly inefficient service to install and run and that's why it's so expensive.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Donnie Morrison investigated by the Cooke Report? Maybe some-one can remember this and fill us in?

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can get Donnie stripped of his MBE if we all write to the palace!

Anonymous said...

Why was he put up for it in the first place - surely something wrong there?

Anonymous said...

Donnie Morrison from Habost received his MBE from Prince Charles at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace in November.

Donnie received his MBE in recognition of the 'tremendous work' he has done in the Western Isles within the ITC sector.

Mr Morrison is employed by Western Isles Enterprise as Senior Executive, Global Connections.

Anonymous said...

Ho ho ho ! Says it all really.

Anonymous said...


there is a precedent

Anonymous said...

Whether Donnie or anyone gets or got an MBE is kinda irrelevant to whether my broadband works, or doesn't work, today.

Anonymous said...

4:01 PM

Its not irrelevant, it is totally relevant. It is how we are portrayed to those who listen to something else other than 103FM.

The 'establishment' think we are all doing great because of the **** these idiots spew out.

Bring them back to earth with a hefty thud I say. Bet he has been feeding off it for years.

Unknown said...

I think the only way ahead is to ask them to pay back all the money they have acquired on the pretense of providing us poor souls( who b.t wont' provide) with broadband. Yes, they can be ill mannered on the other end of the phone but seeing as there are no recordings of the calls they get away with it. Also, along the same lines they can say that the customer was argumentative and abusive.
It is truly a scam where the public don't matter.
Somebody somewhere should be made to pay for this farce!!

Unknown said...

They(Concom)should stop getting away with all the lies. They cannot provide us with what they have purported they would so why are they still in receipt of grants for this scam. This scam has got a lot of diffrent people scoring from it. I think if you scratch my back(as it were)I'll scratch yours has a lot to do with everything that they are getting away with.

Anonymous said...

" poor souls( who b.t wont' provide) with broadband"

BT were, I believe, excluded from the tendering process for these ConCom exchanges, basically a stitch up job between the Scot. Exec. HIE, CNES and now they've gone so far down the process they can't be seen to back out due to the money that's been thrown at it - until BT bring in their 21CN network in 2011/12 and the CC network becomes redundant overnight - any bets on how much public money will have been wasted by then? Well, apart from the CNES, Health Board etc. premises that they'll hold onto to save some face! Better if they threw the money they haven't yet wasted to BT who could, with a fraction of it, provide the infrastructure in readiness for 21CN, provide a more reliable current network to more customers, and be ready to implement CN sooner.

Anonymous said...

An interesting read and the answers very disingenuous, anyone want to try to get another ISP on their network?

Some more links.

Anonymous said...

Don't think these links worked so here they are again.


Anonymous said...

"Some of the Northbay residents are unconvinced and fear delays beyond the estimated end of August" is mid-February 2009 and areas of Barra still do not have broadband...and the ones who have, have just had a nine day ConCom breakdown!

Mind you ConCom did say that broadband in Northbay was "imminent" in February 2006, so at least they are consistant in their incompetence. I have seen techtonic plates move quicker than this initiative.

What is really shameful about this whole charade is how complicit our elected "representatives" have been in trying to downplay this issue. They are more interested in trying to protect the reputations of the funding bodies than representing their constituents.

The big problem is that this "initiative" was started under one administration and continued under another, and both Labour and SNP are guilty of sanctioning funding to an ill-conceived project. This is why we are asking the other areas affected to contact the European Parliament.

We estimated the cost of this project to be in the region of £12M but were told by someone linked to ConCom that is was nearer £16M!!! Remember BT got just 1/2M more to upgrade 378 exchanges in 2005. It is little wonder nobody wants to broach this subject. It is the big white elephant in the Council living room.

We have had dealings with all the parties on this issue and to give Peter Peacock some credit, he at least has raised this issue at the Scottish Parliament and is tryng to ensure that we aren't in a similar position next upgrade. The SNP have been as useful as ConCom during a gale!

Anonymous said...

I think something that a lot of people don't realise is that the problem isn't with Connected Communities infrastructure - it is with the SSE power infrastructure.

I know for a fact that ConnCom have got relay mast completed all over the place that are just waiting for power connections to be run to them.

I also know that most of the outages over the winter were down to power outages - the same power outages that took out mobile phone masts and various other services.

It ain't ConnCom I'm annoyed at it is SSE. The current power infrastructure just isn't good enough to cope with the winters up here while supplying the various now-essential technologies that modern life requires - that is where we should be looking to get subsidies poured in - into the power grid.


Anonymous said...

"I think something that a lot of people don't realise is that the problem isn't with Connected Communities infrastructure - it is with the SSE power infrastructure."

The problem IS with ConCom - if the SSE power infrastructure is as unreliable (which it isn't) as you suggest and ConCom knew that, they should have built a network taking that into account by designing fallback supplies to cope i.e. backup generators, batteries etc. It is done by ALL comms service companies as standard, especially when supplying mission critical services. They should have a backup supply regardless, even if the supply is reliable, because power outages will always occur at some time - did ConCom not realize there would be power outages in the Western Isles!!

''I know for a fact that ConnCom have got relay mast completed all over the place that are just waiting for power connections to be run to them.''

That's a pretty lame excuse for those customer's still waiting to be connected and want to run their businesses, considering the network build was started in 2004!! (and they could (mostly) have had 8M service in 2005!) Seems that everyone else can get a supply within weeks from SSE, just not ConCom.

Anonymous said...

Network News

Tarbert / Scalpay Update [23/02/2009 9:25]

Engineers are awaiting permission to climb the mast at Tarbert in order to resolve the fault current affecting the Tarbert/ Scalpay area. ETA is tomorrow morning.

Anonymous said...

As the sector has developed lack of broadband had become the single biggest challenge in the Western Isles and Connected Communities has now delivered an exemplar network. (sic)

Anonymous said...

"You have been told on numerous occasions why the service that we
provide to you has technical issues. I also understand from my
colleagues that we only agreed to continue to provide a service to you
on the understanding that you accept that we cannot guarantee the
quality of your service due to your location. We hope to be able to
resolve these issues with a relay mast but as with all clients, the
service is subject to survey and I cannot confirm whether additional
mast sites will resolve your issue or not.

We purchase a wholesale service from Connected Communities and have
absolutely no control over the network until the traffic reaches our
network in London.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me say again - due to _your_ location,
we cannot provide _you_ with a reliable service at the present time. We
have therefore no option but to cease _your_ service. This is same
policy that BT Wholesale use in the provision of ADSL services to
several million users across the UK."

Anonymous said...

Monday, 28 August 2006, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK

Remote community gets broadband

The remote Shetland island of Foula has finally had its telephone exchange upgraded to broadband.

Work on the isle's new service had been delayed after a storm destroyed building work last winter.

It was the only community left without an upgraded exchange after a Scottish Executive rural broadband programme was completed last December.

However, a mixture of satellite and wireless technology provided an interim service to its 30 or so residents.

A BT spokesman said the Foula upgrade had been a "mammoth task".

"High winds, and choppy seas made the delivery and storage of materials difficult," he said.

"Transferring 12 engineers to and from the site was another challenge because Foula is served by a seven-seat light aircraft and the one bed and breakfast can only accommodate seven guests.

"Several times the weather was too bad for flying and some engineers were stranded on the island."

Remaining lines

The rural broadband initiative was run in partnership with BT and brought broadband to 378 small exchanges where there were no plans for commercial services.

All of Scotland's 1,069 telephone exchanges have now been upgraded for the fast technology, APART FROM 21 exchanges in the WESTERN ISLES which are covered by a separate project being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

A BT spokesman said a small number of lines on some exchanges would still be unable to receive broadband because of the distance they travelled from the exchange.

The executive said it was undertaking research to help it address this issue in the next few months.

Anonymous said...

"The executive said it was undertaking research to help it address this issue in the next few months."

£13M would have gone a long way to addressing that issue and providing service to these small number of lines.

Anonymous said...

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