17th October 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Huddle round the router (Andy Holt)

Congratulations are in order to Tavish Scott for speaking up for those of us in the more remote areas of Shetland who suffer the appalling internet connection service provided by BT.

We pay up to £50 per month for something approaching the old dial-up, when the signal has not disappeared entirely.

A recent (compulsory) upgrade left us with a worse service with connectivity reduced to two rooms in the house. Mostly we huddle round the router like a wartime family round the bakelite wireless set straining to hear the broadcast.

While one can only rejoice at the good fortune of the citizens of Lerwick, those of us on slug rate would like to see a more even-handed approach to provision. Unless, like our council, BT would find it more convenient all round if every last one of us moved to Lerwick and the central belt.

Andy Holt
North House,
Papa Stour.

42 comments

  1. James Paton

    And what exactly is Tavish (hot air) and his colleague in Government – Minsiter for Scotland (more hot air) going to do about it exactly? See my letter re broadband in Times this coming Friday – if they publish it of course.

    Reply
    • Charlie Banham, Cullivoe

      Probably nothing will be ‘done about it’ at least for the next few decades!
      The way I see it was when the government ‘gift packs’ of lucrative contracts/licences where handed out to the telecoms providers, the ‘government’ were too weak to stand up to BT et al – it should have been a requirement that ALL areas of Shetland be upgraded to 4g broadband at the same time. No ‘cherry-picking’ of the most lucrative areas, All or No contract!
      Had the tendering process (if there actually was one?) been open and transparent the numbers of providers bidding would have been substantial – many of which would have literally ‘bitten hands off’ to secure the contract and provide 4G to all of Shetland.

      In hindsight though, it is too bad that we with inferior service do not have the chance to ‘Bite The Hand’ that held the pen that signed of these ludicrous contracts in the first place?

      Reply
  2. Robert Duncan

    These rural areas versus Lerwick debates are ever so tiresome usually, but in this case even more so. We should all rejoice at the plans BT has in place for rolling out fibre broadband in Shetland. The vast majority of households will be covered by the end of 2015, that is an incredible development well ahead of a number of comparable areas.

    How do people expect these things to work? A fibre cable network is always going to be made up of a series of “branches”, and it therefore makes perfect sense to start in the centre and work outwards. To do otherwise would be an utterly pointless move fuelled only by politics.

    There is just no place for this sort of bleating. We should be incredibly grateful that Shetland’s most remote areas have any internet connectivity at all, let alone that they should in the not so distant future have a fully established fibre network link.

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      You should be in Holyrood, Robert, that’s how they think of the rural areas in relation to the Central Belt!

      Reply
      • Robert Duncan

        Good! We all choose to live in Shetland, some of us in its most extreme rural areas. We should accept the sacrifices that come with that decision. The idea that Shetland’s outer isles should have fibre broadband already is just entitled nonsense.

        That it is even available in Lerwick already is excellent news and sets Shetland ahead of many other places in Scotland, which is already well ahead of many developed countries the world over.

        I agree there are valid gripes about centralisation but to moan about this just undermines all of that and makes folk look childish and unreasonable.

      • Robert Duncan

        And to clarify, it is not just Lerwick, various parts of the South Mainland are also now connected, covering about a third of Shetland households by BT’s estimations. They expect to have covered upwards of 70% by this time next year.

        Any anger at BT is woefully misplaced. The only way they could do this faster would be with greater access to public funds.

      • Ali Inkster

        I think we should not forget there would be no fibre broadband anywhere in Shetland if left up to UK and Scottish political will. It took an Independent Faroe with no exploited oil reserves to connect us by cable to the rest of the world. And somehow folk still think we would be worse off without them to support us.

      • John Tulloch

        Very “old school”, there, Robert – “you sud be tankful fur whit you hae!”

        Fortunately, Argyll’s prospective Labour candidate, Mary Galbraith has a different attitude and has done something imaginative about the equally lamentable mobile phone reception in Argyll:

        http://forargyll.com/2014/10/game-changing-intervention-as-labour-candidate-resolves-argyll-black-hole-for-mobile-phone-signal/

      • Robert Duncan

        The actions of Ms Galbraith do not represent a “different attitude” to my own, Mr Tulloch, no matter how much you wish to promote the For Argyll page.

        That is, on face value, a sensible looking solution to a problem. Much better than whinging that Lerwick gets all the luck, an attitude that would hinder progress on fibre cable network provision.

      • John Tulloch

        @Robert Duncan,

        Argyll is a rural area which has much in common with Shetland, as the article about Mary Galbraith’s intelligent action demonstrates.

        Are you associated with the Shetland media, as well as the SIC?

        As I said, your attitude is “very old school”: “Da country fokk sud be tankful fur quhat dey hae!”

        Incidentally, I was born and bred in Lerwick so I’m not “whining”, I’m deeply ashamed of what’s been going on, of late. Frankly, it’s a damned disgrace.

      • Robert Duncan

        I am affiliated to neither the SIC nor any media outlet. I am also perfectly aware of the geography of Argyll and Bute. I simply note that you share the For Argyll page at every opportunity.

        It’s not a matter of country folk alone being thankful for their lot, we all should. The internet connectivity of Shetland is much better than many comparable areas, and is set to rapidly improve over the next few years. This is just a classic “Shetland whinge” of finding something to complain about in even good news.

      • John Tulloch

        @Robert Duncan,

        I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to imply about the relationship between me and ‘For Argyll’, however, I suspect I should, probably, take exception to it.

        I live in Argyll and I post links between the Shetland Times, the Shetland News and For Argyll if I think they’re relevant to reader interest.

        De-population is a big issue in Argyll, too.

        I am an independent, unpaid, contributor to all of the above publications, predominantly, the Shetland ones, who writes for the simple pleasure of researching and writing, as well as the satisfaction of contributing to debates and “poorin’ saat apo’ politicians’ tails”, when deserved.

        I have no formal relationship with For Argyll or, for that matter, with the Shetland Times, the Shetland News, or any other media outlet.

        So, as they say in Argyll, “Ye can pit that in yer pipe an’ smoke it!”

      • Robert Duncan

        I was not the one making accusations of ulterior motive, Mr Tulloch. Mine was just a throwaway remark.

      • John Tulloch

        @Robert Duncan,

        I’m glad to hear it and accept your “clarification”/retraction of your two “throwaway comments”.

        I did think the comments were out of character, you usually insist on dotting everyone else’s i’s and crossing their t’s for them.

        Now, I have to concentrate on school closures between now and November 5th, so I’d best get on.

    • Johan Adamson

      I take your point Robert. I think it is really good that we are getting this. But without public funds BT would not have been supplying it, so market forces does not work for us here, because we are the minority. But isnt it worth us fighting to get the best communication going seeing as we are so remote? We kinda need it the most.

      Yes, there are things we sacrifice in being remote, but most of them unnecessary and to do with rampant consumerism. Are you saying that in history they shouldnt have bothered getting us the postal service or phones at all?

      Reply
      • Robert Duncan

        Not for a second. My point was that I see the “but Lerwick has fast internet already” argument as counter-productive and a hindrance to progress. Shetland is now connected to a fibre optic cabled network – a great first step in getting better internet provision for all of us. I do not understand why anybody would gripe that they have got that first while some of us are struggling with poor ADSL connections. Having some of Shetland (and, again, it’s not just Lerwick) connected means we can eventually connect the rest of Shetland.

        It’d be a bit like moaning that Lerwick has been given the first proper Post Office before the rest of us have been given better mailboats – it’s a short-termist argument that ignores the fact new technologies are improving what is ultimately available.

  3. Lorraine Miller

    Am heartened to read your eloquent description of your internet connection, or actual lack of it.

    We have a similar situation here in remote parts of Orkney. We pay the full going rate for a broadband connection here. On the one occasion we actually managed to get a BT guy out to look at the connection to our house, he said it was “a miracle” we were getting any connection at all.

    We live at the “extreme end” of our exchange line , we hear. We are penalised for not living in the town and are charged the same as everyone else. Glad you’re speaking out.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      Fibre broadband and ADSL are sold in different packages, so you’re not truthfully charged the same as everybody else. The only way your internet will significantly improve is to install a permanent fibre cable network, and the only way that is going to happen for Shetland’s rural communities is as a branch from a network serving the more populated areas.

      Reply
  4. Michael Garriock

    @ Robert Duncan: I think you’re completely missing the point the OP made – That wouldn’t it be fairer to first ensure everybody in Shetland had at least a USEABLE speed during heaviest traffic, before making a song and dance about some of those who already have a useable speed getting a yet faster one. You’re using the same logic/argument here as someone saying its “okay” for the rich to get richer while the poor get poorer.

    Yes, I’ll concede that its “nice” something somewhere in Shetland is being “improved”, but quite frankly the money/time/effort expended on this “improvement” would have done far more people far more good if it had been used to upgrade the services to a minimum consistent speed of at least 2 to as many users as possible, than on racking up the speed even higher for those that already enjoy around 5, 6, 7 or more already.

    I have no axe to grind either, I am in the south mainland, and could probably get the higher speeds, but I’m so interested in it that I’ve not even bothered to find out for sure if I can. My current speed is more than adequate for my requirements, and I have no issue with any investment cash becoming available going straight to improving the service of those who are as yet on lower speeds than I, before I start nurturing aspirations for a more Rolls Royce service for myself or anyone else.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      This argument would work if these were just linear improvements. They’re not. Fibre broadband and ADSL connections are fundamentally different. There’s no point investing time and money towards marginally improving ADSL when we can instead develop a proper fibre network.

      This is the first phase of a long term programme from BT, which as stated above will cover 70+% of Shetland households by later next year and more still in 2016. It is brilliant news and sets Shetland well ahead of the curve.

      Reply
      • Michael Garriock

        “There’s no point investing time and money towards marginally improving ADSL when we can instead develop a proper fibre network.”

        Perhaps not in “marginally” improving it, but I would argue there’s a watertight case in improving it to be fit for purpose.

        There is nothing in the original report on this site to even suggest that any more than a maximum of 75% of Shetland will ever benefit from this “investment”/improvement”. “….it will be possible to connect virtually all Shetland properties given the will and a co-operative approach.” Translation: Possible, if someone else does it/pays for it. In plain terms a potential approx 5750 of the population has virtually no hope right now of achieving anything from it, yet every taxpayer is putting the same in to it.

        Had this been a purely commercial matter with 100% BT funding, I would have had no quibble with what’s going on, they’re out to make the maximum profit, however they choose to do so. However as far as I read what is suggested in the original report, this has tax dollars being pumped in to it, and as far as I’m concerned where that’s going on, either everybody should have an equal slice of the cake, or the neediest should get most, not the greediest.

        Unless there’s someone keeping something quiet, we’re talking a situation here where potentially approx 17250 folk, a significant proportion of whom already achieve “reasonable” speeds, will potentially see their speed double or more. While potentially approx 5750 folk who already spend more time waiting for web pages to load, or continually refreshing them to attempt to get them to load properly than the they spend productively using the web, have no hope of any service improvement whatsoever in the foreseeable future, all based on a postcode (or in this case telephone exchange) lottery.

        Its one thing tolerating your tax dollars being spent on something that will only benefit other people when you’re getting by okay yourself, but wholly understandable that folk might consider the urine is being extracted when they see it being spent on those who are already doing fine getting something even better, while they’re being frustrated and held back by what little of the same service they do manage to get, being so poor it really cannot be considered to be adequate to do the job.

      • John Tulloch

        Absolutely, Michael, well said!

  5. ian_tinkler

    I may be way off here but for remote communities running internet down a wire must be a bit dated. Surely wire and fibre optic would be better dumped for more modern and inventive approaches. Perhaps wireless mobile Internet services such as 3G and 4g could be a better approach. I am no telecommunications expert, but if feasible to use wireless why are we spending a fortune on already nearly obsolete technologies?

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      I would see that as a reasonable position, too, although you’d be asking folk in remote areas to make a couple of trade-offs: Mobile internet is both slower and more expensive. Even the max speeds of 4G are only slightly higher than the lower band of fibre optic speeds, and well below on averages.

      It’s likely we’ll have a newer, faster wireless network along soon enough though, so maybe in the long term that is the most sensible solution.

      Reply
    • M. Grant

      Ian – as I understand it, physical connections, whether wire or fibre, provide faster speeds than 3G and 4G, are cheaper to install, and (most importantly) are cheaper to use.

      Reply
  6. Andy Holt

    I fully accept that it has been my choice to live and work in a remote area and that as a consequence the level of public and communication services that I enjoy will be lower than those of the town and central belt. What I refuse to accept, however, is the less than even-handed approach to cuts in education and transport adopted by our council at the expense of all of us, which coupled with poor communications, is having a detrimental effect in the country districts. The imbalance extends to Shetland’s Ancient Capital, Scalloway, 5 miles down the road from Lerwick which doesn’t even have an ATM or a petrol pump. While this may not seem like a problem to Robert Duncan, I consider it worth bleating about. If depopulation driven by lack of services and facilities is allowed to really get underway, Shetland’s rural areas will not become a pristine wilderness, but a rank desert, to the detriment of us all.
    Last year BT made a profit of £2.8 billion after tax and are on course to make over £3 billion in 2015. I think therefore it is reasonable to expect that they provide value for money to the consumer and if they fall short, an adequate means of redress for all their customers.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      Your comments on Scalloway seem misplaced. There is no ATM because it’s population does not allow for one, at the decision of the banks, not any public body. Residents can easily get cash back from various outlets, including for free in the local pharmacy/Post Office. The fee-charging ATM available in one of the local shops is largely ignored for this very reason.

      As for petrol pumps, again this is a simple consequence of business decisions as much as anything else. The pumps at Lerwick are perfectly accessible and the Burra Garage also has pumps.

      As somebody who has lived at various times in and around Scalloway, I see neither of these as an issue in the slightest.

      I’m not sure what more you expect from BT. Were this purely a business-led decision, they would most likely not be providing any service whatsoever to the outermost isles of Shetland. Bleating directed at public bodies may well be fairer, but as I’ve said above, it seems they are taking reasonable action to give good access to broadband internet that sets Shetland ahead of many areas of Scotland and Scotland well ahead of many countries around the world.

      Reply
      • Johan Adamson

        As I said before, its a good job back in the day someone believed in a universal GPO and a universal health service or the remote areas would not have had phones, the post or an NHS. Robert Duncan why do we now have to accept market forces?

      • Robert Duncan

        I didn’t say we did, I am saying that we should acknowledge that in a system fully driven by the market Shetland wouldn’t have things half as good as it does. I don’t think a private company (BT) can be expected to do much for us without support from public bodies (SIC, Scottish Government through Digital Scotland/HIE etc), because the costs of doing so simply aren’t worth it to them without external support.

        External support, despite some of the views in this thread, has been provided though, to a greater extent than elsewhere, and for that I think we should be grateful.

    • John Tulloch

      Well said, Andy.

      Reply
  7. ian tinkler

    If ever there was a good reason for Shetland to become a Crown Dependency within the UK, Robert Duncan has just made it. Shetland Island Council and for that matter Edinburgh and Westminster governments seem utterly indifferent or totally impotent to act when our rural and not so rural communities are exploited, ignored and shat upon by arbitrary business decisions from down south. Postage costs surcharges, landscapes destroyed, rural school closures, pathetic communications and travel links, typically third world treatment by the banks towards Shetland . Strategically and economically Shetland is vital to the UK and Scotland, is it not time to find some tough leadership and demand Crown Dependency . The feudal system is long dead, let’s make some waves and demand powerful autonomy, take control of our own destiny and show some courage and defiance against the feeble, wet and self serving politicians whom fail us time and again.

    Reply
    • Brian Smith

      Ian Tinkler thinks that ‘the feudal system is long dead’, but ‘wants Crown dependency’!

      Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      Postage cost surcharges are hardly “arbitrary”. It is arbitrary that we receive the same price as everybody, a decision made on grounds of politics rather than geography and actual costs.

      And again I repeat, we do not have “pathetic communications” by any reasonable measure.

      Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      I also don’t understand how this position tallies with your well documented views on Scottish independence.

      Reply
    • Bill Adams

      Mr Tinkler, I have yet to be persuaded that there is any compelling reason for Shetland
      to seek Crown Dependency status despite your fulminations on the subject.
      But at least you should get your facts right.
      Crown Dependencies are NOT in the United Kingdom – they are associated with but
      outwith the United Kingdom state itself.
      I am ,sir, always happy to correct your factual inaccuracies.

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        So what?

        The UK is responsible for the defence of Crown Dependencies, as Denmark is responsible for the defence of Faroe and Greenland.

        That’s what we’re calling for.

        If you want to prevent that from happening, hadn’t you and Charlie Gallagher better pop in along Charlie’s “good friends” Alex and Nicola for your ‘twal’ and see if you can arrange for Shetland to have Faroese status, as a separate country, with the “Realm of Scotland”?

        No quite as much autonomy as a Crown Dependency – but close!

  8. David Spence

    I find it quite disheartening that BT should, overall, control and dictate what Internet speeds people and companies hiring the line should get. I have noticed, quite blatantly, in the exact same location, 2 completely different speeds of the Internet. One person with BT, the other with another ISP (Internet Service Provider) both individuals paying for the maximum speeds, but one clearly out performing the other. No guesses which one this one……yes, the person with BT.

    I understand that other ISP’s may have a certain bandwidth on a line to provide Internet for other people, but I also find that BT appears to be breaching trading laws (want for a better description) by only allowing other ISP’s to have a certain bandwidth, and subsequent speed on particular lines, despite the fact that BT themselves can provide a faster speed on the same line.

    I agree with Ian’s last comment……changing the subject slightly lol……..but I would say ‘ Let Scotland prove that it has sovereign rights to these islands ‘ first……….which I suspect nobody will have the courage to challenge the ‘ Status Quo ‘ regarding this……….well, certainly not Shetlander’s (they are too easily brainwashed into letting anybody rule the roost, and control them). Seems ironic (in light of recent events) that it takes an Englishman to bring this to the fore.

    Reply
  9. ian tinkler

    I thank Bill Adams for his correction, a very, very clever point from him, however my argument remains unaffected. Robert Duncan seems happy to accept complete mediocrity of services, I respect his view, however I feel Shetlanders deserve rather more. For example extortionate deliver surcharges on parcels from South, I find those quite unacceptable. Our communications for example broadband, are very poor. How come the Faroese do so much better? My view on Scottish Independence, were based on my utter repugnance to nationalism and all that means. As a Crown dependency we would share the best of the UK, and also ourselves, contribute to the UK. As part of an Independent Scotland, had the referendum been different, we may have been part of The Socialist Republic of “Salmondland”, no thank you Colin Duncan, that egotopia and particular isolated nationalist tribe , would not be for me! A small point of interest for David Spence, my mum was raised in Glasgow, I am British.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      At one point do delivery surcharges become “extortionate”? It is perfectly understandable that companies might pass on the added costs of delivery for bigger items, and despite various stories of people who have been quoted ludicrous charges for items that could reasonably be delivered by Royal Mail, I have personally always found that retailers are open to changing their practice once that is explained to them. If they don’t they’re not really worth doing business with in the first place, and rather than complain it’s much easier to just find a competitor with a better understanding of customer service.

      Where our views differ most markedly here is this belief that our broadband is “mediocre”. I accept that Faroe may be ahead of us, but they are a notable outlier in that regard.

      Reply
  10. ian tinkler

    Sorry, Robert, not Colin!!!

    Reply
  11. David Spence

    I phoned up a company enquiring about some software they were selling. The software was worth £14.99. However, I was totally shocked that the charge for posting the cd through a private courier (which I suspect the computer company had financial connections, lets say) was going to be £26.00.

    I phoned up the Post Office here in Lerwick and asked them how much would it cost to send a cd (in a jiffy bag) from Shetland to Manchester (where the company was based) where they told me ‘ First Class would cost around £2.70 ‘.

    I phoned the company back again and asked them if they could send the software via the Post Office. I told them roughly what the cost would have been. They refused to budge from their initial postal service via a private courier. Needless to say I did not bother purchasing the software.

    In some cases, when you inform the person from south on the phone you reside in the Shetland Islands, I have been told that this would be regarded as……..wait for it………….Foreign Territory, and subsequently the charges go up significantly. Despite giving the person the phone a little geography lesson, and that Shetland is part of Scotland/UK, it makes no difference, it is still regarded as a Foreign Destination or Over Sea’s.

    Ian, your mother was raised in Scotland? Is your mother Scottish? Sorry, I mean British? If she was born in the country (yes Ian, Scotland is a country despite what you may think as constitutes borders and territory of the United Kingdom) of Scotland, that would make her first Scottish and then second, if you wanted to use this description, British?

    Reply
  12. ian tinkler

    My Mum, First British, 2nd Glaswegian, she was a bit ashamed of the nationalist, always called herself British.

    Reply

Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to editorial@shetlandtimes.co.uk for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.