Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has raised the issue of the upcoming closure of Connected Communities (Hebnet). The publicly-funded wireless network, which has operated in the Western Isles since 2005, is set to shut down in March 2020.
Since the roll-out of superfast broadband across the islands began in 2015, more and more households and businesses have been transferring to mainstream broadband services. HIE have indicated that the high fixed costs of the Connected Communities network mean it is no longer viable to continue the service for a declining number of customers.
There are around 500 remaining Connected Communities users and the local MSP has received a number of enquiries from them about how they continue to access broadband after March. While fibre, 4G or satellite services may be an option for some, a number of people will be left without any broadband after March.
Alasdair Allan MSP said:“The Scottish Government’s rollout of superfast broadband across the Western Isles has made huge strides over the last few years with more than 80% of island households now having access to superfast broadband. This means there are now significantly fewer people using the Connected Communities service than in the past.
“However, many of the remaining customers are in areas where fibre has not yet reached and the 4G reception is poor. I have raised this situation with HIE. It is disappointing that the company operating Hebnet does not seem to have given its customers more notice. I would urge people still using this service to get in touch with HIE and find out what alternative broadband options are available in their area.
“I have also written to the Scottish Government Minister for Connectivity, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, regarding this situation and have asked what can be done to ensure that those customers affected by the Hebnet switch off are at the front of the queue when it comes to the next stage of fibre broadband roll out.”