Councillor accuses BT of ‘profiteering’ amid calls for Shetland Telecom to step in and deliver broadband

A councillor has called for Shetland to “get its mojo back” and deliver its own highspeed broadband services after accusing BT of “profiteering”.

North Isles councillor Robert Thomson said BT had an “Oliver Twist mentality”, likening its approach to government funding as saying: “Please sir, can I have some more”.

He said BT’s Openreach took all the funding available “and then they just sit back and wait for the next handout”.

“I feel that if we wait for BT, we are going to be very disappointed,” he said.

Mr Thomson was speaking during Wednesday’s development committee meeting regarding the SIC’s plan for a “digital review” .

The councillor said BT, which was awarded the R100 contract in 2019, was quoting “totally insane” amounts of money to carry out connections.

“It’s just absolutely total profiteering,” he said.

Earlier this year, Mid Walls couple Frances Taylor and Richard Swales told The Shetland Times how BT quoted then almost  £1 million for a fibre connection.

Mr Thomson said he had heard of other “ludicrous” sums quoted.

He called on colleagues to “get our mojo back” and support Shetland Telecom to role out fibre optic connections to the parts of the isles still suffering with slow speeds.

Depute leader Gary Robinson also criticised BT.

He said the council was “between a rock and a hard place” when it came to broadband.

“When we instigated Shetland Telecom there was some real ambition around it and then I think that ambition slipped because BT said we are going to step in and do all this stuff.

“Bu we are still waiting for BT to do that stuff –  that’s the honest truth of it.”

Mr Robinson said it “really sticks in my craw” to see BT receive public money for delivering broadband services only to then charge its customers large sums.

“I think that doesn’t sit well at all with me or indeed the community,” he said.

“They always say it’s not commercial viable for them to do it but then they are happy enough to charge for a service when it’s done.”

Lerwick North and Bressay member Stephen Leask said R100 had been “nothing short of a disappointment”.

The committee later agreed to apply for “code powers”, which would make it easier for the council to install and maintain a fibreoptic network of its own.

A report to members said officials would engage with UK and Scottish governments, as well as industry representatives, to to assess the gaps in provision in local superfast connectivity and inform a “strategic plan regarding the future of connectivity in Shetland”.

The report is due by the end of the year.

The Scottish government’s latest update on the £600 million R100 project stated that by March 20,000 premises had now been supplied with superfast broadband.

The programme is scheduled to reach 100 per cent of homes by 2027/28 – with the “North Lot” properties including Shetland the last to be completed.

BT is obliged to provide a quote to any customer requesting a broadband connection as part of its universal service obligation (USO).

“Quotes provided under the USO reflect the true cost of delivering fibre broadband connection to a given area,” it said.

Shetland Telecom was founded in 2009 by the council’s economic development unit to establish a fibre optic network.


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • May 31st, 2023 21:17

    Maybe the council should look to Elon Musk’s starlink and arrange group discounts instead of relying on schemes from either Westminster or holyrood.


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