Angus MacNeil MP to meet with Minster of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock MP, next month because broadband is the number one issue which constituents have raised with him this summer and he will convey that strength of feeling to the minister when he meets him on October 10th.
They will discuss the roll-out of superfast broadband and plans for a Universal Service Obligation which would give all residents of Na h-Eileanan an Iar a right to a minimum service.
With more than 100 constituents contacting him on the matter over the summer, Mr MacNeil is also calling for communities to be kept better informed of current plans to improve services.
He said: “From the Butt to Barra, constituents have contacted me to seek details of when they can expect progress.
“I know it is extremely frustrating particularly for those with no prospect of being connected to fibre broadband any time soon, I am in the same position in my own home in Barra. I know that there are many homes with extremely slow speeds and those who cannot receive any form of broadband – a circumstance which would be inconceivable for someone living in a city address.
“The fact that so many people contact me on this issue show just how important this is to people. A reliable broadband connection is essential for most of us in every aspect of our daily lives.”
Making every effort to drive forward improvements, Mr MacNeil is in regular contact with HIE and BT for details of the roll out of superfast broadband in the islands and has regular contact with BT Scotland Director Brendan Dick.
He has also taken on the case of groups of homes in the Back, Point and Achmore areas of Lewis and businesses in South Uist where specific difficulties have arisen and is also very aware that many homes are not included in the roll-out programme.
He added: “In the last two weeks I have been contacted by many constituents who are supporting a campaign calling for improvements to infrastructure to ensure fast reliable broadband. An Ofcom consultation on the future relationship between BT and Openreach is currently open on this matter and I would encourage constituents to respond to that.
“I feel that communities across Na h-Eileanan an Iar could be kept better informed of the plans for their specific area and the changes to those plans which can and do happen regularly. Timescales for development are important for communities creating long term plans especially where work is ongoing to reverse population decline. I have already had contact from families considering moving to the islands who have highlighted broadband as an issue which could sway their decision as to whether they would move or not.
“I will continue to liaise with all agencies to push for a better service for the people of the islands. This includes regular discussions with mobile phone operators regarding their plans for 3G and 4G services. I am very pleased that Faroese Telecom, who provide blanket 4G coverage in the Faroes, are pressing on with efforts to enter the UK market and eventually offer their service to parts of Scotland.
“The announcement by the European Commission that 5G will be fully deployed across the EU by 2025 and free wireless internet in public centres by 2020 is extremely welcome – for those who have a future in the EU. Meanwhile UK Government goes forward with Brexit without any clear strategy and the areas where we are likely to lose out are fast becoming clear.”