Some Shetland residents have been left without internet or telephone services owing to work being carried out on the Shefa-2 subsea cable.
Scheduled work on the cable, which runs from Faroe to mainland Scotland via Orkney and Shetland, is set to last for around 72 hours. Difficulties with telephone and internet services are not expected to persist for that length of time.
The problems appear to have arisen when cable ships, working for a subsidiary of Faroese Telecom called Shefa, lifted a piece of cable on Thursday to splice in a new section.
Locally a number of organisations have suffered communications problems owing to the resultant capacity issues. NHS Shetland and Shetland Islands Council have both experienced some issues but on Friday morning the NHS sought to assure residents that emergency medical lines were operational.
“All emergency medical lines are open and working at the Gilbert Bain Hospital and at health centres”, NHS Shetland stated.
NHS services are said to be taking priority and communication has been moved to a backup routed through Faroe, Iceland, Scandinavia, and back to Britain.
On Friday morning the council’s website was down. Islanders attempting to call the authority were advised to keep trying if they did not get through immediately.
Meanwhile the arts centre Mareel reported on Facebook on Thursday evening that it was unable to receive phone calls or emails and could not take card payments or print tickets. By Friday at noon the problems had mostly passed, Shetland Arts stated.
Organisations including the council and BT were referring to the scheduled maintenance as “emergency” works but according to Ian Brown of Shetland Broadband telecom users had been advised of the work weeks ago
In theory, he said, there should have been little problem as an operational backup, which provides connectivity north via Faroe and over a second subsea cable back to the UK, is available. But this system would only work where providers had bought capacity on the back-up route via Faroe.
Mr Brown said: “Their line [Faroese Telecom], and I fully support them on this, is that there’s a fully operational back-up available and it’s up to individual providers to have this in place.
“Generally speaking, things shouldn’t be as bad as they are.”
As of Friday morning, all but a “few hundred” BT customers had been reconnected and efforts were ongoing to reroute more traffic.
The telecoms firm stated: “Shefa, part of Faroese Telecom, were carrying out emergency maintenance to their subsea cable which connects Shetland to the UK mainland. A small number of customers in Shetland may be experiencing problems connecting to broadband as a result.
“Shefa are working to restore the subsea link as soon as possible. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”