Some broadband customers have been left without coverage for a week over the New Year period because of damage suffered by Shetland’s cable link to the Scottish mainland.
Customers of internet providers including Talk Talk and AOL lost internet and phone coverage after a sub-sea fibre break 61 kilometres from the isles on 28th December.
A ship has been sent from Calais to carry out the cable repairs, but customers have been given little information as to when their broadband will be up and running again.
However, those with Shetland Telecom, Shetland Broadband and BT services have been rerouted to keep them connected.
The news has prompted a call from Shetland’s MSP for an investigation into Shetland’s broadband service.
Tavish Scott is asking the regulator Ofcom to look into the service provided to customers in the isles. He says if BT customers can be kept online, other providers should be able to offer the same level of service.
“Shetland households and businesses who have lost broadband over the holidays should be getting in touch with the telecom regulator Ofcom.
“It could be that the commercial broadband contract that individuals have specifies the service should be guaranteed.
“The fibre optic link for Shetland via Orkney to the Scottish mainland has been damaged. This is not the first time that has happened. But there are ways to overcome that by rerouting the broadband connection via Faroe. That is a commercial matter for the companies who provide broadband. Three companies make sure there are resilient services for Shetland.
“The question is, why don’t all companies selling broadband to Shetland customers do that? I am therefore asking Ofgem to investigate the service that Shetland gets from such companies and to suggest ways that this can be improved and maintained when such incidents happen in the future.”
One of those to have lost internet and phone coverage is Lerwick resident Charles Lafferty. He said he was in the dark as to when his broadband may be running again after it went down last Saturday.
“All we’re getting is texts to tell us what progress they are making.
“The latest text I got was this morning to say that they’ve just sent a ship from Calais to fix a cable 63 kilometres from Shetland.”
Asked if he had been in touch with Talk Talk about the matter he said: “You can’t get through to them. All they say is ‘we’re having problems’.
“As far as I can see all they have been doing is negotiating whether they are going to send this boat out or not. The text came today that they are going to be sending it from Calais, and there is no date of completion.”
Talk Talk said:”We are sorry that customers are experiencing a loss of service because of a subsea cable break. The supplier is sending a cabling ship from Calais, France, and we are updating customers with news about the repair as soon as it becomes available. To register for updates, and for information about diverting calls to mobile phones, we advise customers to please call 0870 444 1820 or 020 3441 5550.”
Meanwhile, BT said the vessel sailing from Calais would be at the site on Monday if conditions remained favourable enough for a safe passage.
That could mean it will be next Friday before any necessary repair work is completed.
BT’s Mitch Reid said: “A subsea fibre cable owned by Faroese Telecom has been damaged approximately 61km from Shetland.
“BT leases space on the cable but has been able to redirect all its traffic onto our radio transmission routes so none of our customers have lost service.
“A 300 metre section of the cable’s outer sheathing has been damaged, probably by a net from a fishing boat.
“A cableship is sailing from Calais and will be at the site on Monday, weather permitting, and the repair work should be completed by next Friday.”