A meeting in Uig which was meant to discuss poor broadband internet connections was missed by many residents on Monday (24 April) – because their internet connection was too poor to attend.
The meeting with a representative of BT’s R100 delivery team – charged with enabling broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps to every home and business in Scotland had to move online due to the ill health of the key R100 representative due to attend.
That had the unintended consequence of barring attendance to anyone who does not already have fast enough broadband to join an online meeting, described by one Uig resident as ‘irony at its best.’
Another said: “Brilliant - let’s have a meeting about poor wi-fi provision and ask everyone to join online via the poor wi-fi. What could possibly go wrong?”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MSP Alasdair Allan, who was hosting the much-delayed meeting, acknowledged the difficulty when he notified local residents of the changed arrangements.
He said: “I recognise this is far from ideal, particularly given the subject matter, but those I have spoken with locally felt moving online was preferable to shifting the date again.”
And he also reported after the meeting that the fact that a significant cohort of residents could not attend due to their internet signal being too poor, further demonstrated the limitations of the area’s lack of digital infrastructure.
Monday’s meeting was to be recorded, with slides available afterwards for anyone who was unable to join.
Those Uig residents who did join Dr Allan online heard an update on progress with the R100 fibre broadband rollout for their area.
The pressing need for better infrastructure in areas like Uig was highlighted late last year, when EE’s 4G signal failed for over a month.
Despite that urgency, Openreach’s updated deployment plan has Uig as one of the last districts to be reached, with fibre installation works not expected to be completed until March 2028. The original final delivery date of the whole R100 rollout was set in 2021.
Dr Allan said: “I am grateful to members of the R100 team for meeting with my constituents to discuss their concerns over the timescale for fibre broadband finally reaching their area.
“While the investment from the Scottish Government to improve Scotland’s digital connectivity is most welcome, with Westminster lagging behind in fulfilling its responsibilities, it is still extremely frustrating for residents in areas like Uig to be at the back of the queue.
“In my view, Openreach should have considered each area’s current connectivity levels (including the reliability of their mobile signal and 4G) when deciding on the optimal order for the work to take place – not leaving those furthest away from existing connections until the very end. I will be continuing to pursue this issue with R100 and Openreach.
“Additionally, a number of Western Isles households will be eligible for vouchers as opposed to being included in the R100 rollout at all, and questions remain over how straightforward it will be to utilise these vouchers within communities to ensure as many people as possible can be reached by this vital infrastructure.”
Duncan Nisbet, the Scottish Government’s R100 stakeholder director said: “While I understand the frustration around the timing of build of full fibre infrastructure in the area, the transformational change of gigabit-capable connections should not be underestimated.
“I look forward to visiting Uig ahead of the build programme to talk through the process of building in rural areas and the impact of the civils works.
“I’d also encourage people across Na h-Eileanan Siar to check their property status on our website at: www.scotlandsuperfast.com.”