Debate due over copper wire closure

MP’s will debate the planned shutdown of the copper wire telecommunications network which has sparked concern among island communities.

Plans are in place for most of the copper wire network to be closed by the end of 2025 as it is replaced with broadband connections.

But questions have been asked over just how resilient the new technology will be in the case of power cuts.

It follows power outages in Shetland last year, which left some properties without power for up to six days.

The replacement “Voice over Internet Protocol” (VoIP) system only has a resilience of one hour using a backup battery with Openreach, and relies on a broadband connection.

The debate, which is planned to take place on Wednesday, is being led by isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

“I have raised concerns about the copper wire network in parliament before, and the answers have not been good enough,” he said.

“Now is the time for ministers and officials to brush up and front up on what they are going to do to ensure that the new systems work for vulnerable people and for our island communities.

“The news this week that Openreach has now reached the ‘halfway’ point in its broadband upgrade programme will be cold comfort for the many households in the isles which continue to wait.

“Without government intervention businesses are always going to put rural and island communities at the back of the queue – that cannot be acceptable.

“We need a proper plan to maintain resilience in future, whatever happens to the copper network. There is a lack of confidence in the switchover as things stand – particularly for people who are the most isolated or reliant on emergency connections.

“I would urge anyone with concerns about the changes to the network to contact my office ahead of the debate, so that we can present the strongest possible evidence of the potential impact. This is not about opposing change – but it is about ensuring that the needs of our communities are heard.”


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