‘A six-month delay is not acceptable’

The chairman of Bute Rural Community Broadband Group has hit out at news that parts of Bute will not receive a Next Generation Broadband upgrade until December 2016.
The chairman of Bute Rural Community Broadband Group has hit out at news that parts of Bute will not receive a Next Generation Broadband upgrade until December 2016.

The chairman of Bute Rural Community Broadband Group has asked for Bute Community Council’s help in getting answers as to why the delivery of improved broadband services to rural Bute is now being pushed back to December 2016.

Tom Cromack, in a letter to BCC, said: “The residents of Kilchattan Bay are still on a BT monopoly service of 0.5bps, they have tried as a community to improve their broadband service but have been prevented by Scottish government red tape and made to rely on the funding it has given to BT.”

It is alleged by BT, according to Mr Cromack, that Argyll and Bute Council objected to the preferred location of two Kilchattan Bay cabinets, which resulted in the delay to works.

Mr Cromack continued: “Bute Rural Community Group would be grateful if Bute Community Council would use its good offices to find out why Argyll and Bute Council are continuing to delay the delivery of NGB [Next Generation Broadband] to Kilchattan Bay.

“A three-month delay was acceptable, but a six-month delay is not.”

Councillor Len Scoullar said: “I spoke personally, tonight, to the roads inspector who tells me that at no time has BT asked for a specific site or been refused permission for any site. That hasn’t taken place.”

Councillor Strong added: “I think there’s been a mix-up - somewhere along the line there’s been a misunderstanding.”

Community councillor, Tony Harrison, commented: “It is important that the case is made very strongly, as it’s a ridiculous situation we find outselves in.

“We seem to put every obstacle in place to prevent people from coming here. It’s a scandal. I think Bute Community Council should be flexing its muscles.”

Mr Cromack was advised to await a response from Anna Watkiss, Argyll and Bute Council’s Development Support Officer, after which BCC will reconsider the matter.

Read Mr Cromack’s letter in full below.

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Dear Madam,

In winter 2013 Bute Rural Community Broadband Group developed a scheme with support from Community Broadband Scotland, for an improved broadband service for the whole of rural Bute. However CBS withdrew their support in spring 2014 because HIE/BT committed to upgrade the Kilchattan Bay exchange by June 2016.

In August 2015 the Group had a meeting with representatives of BT and HIE following which I was optimistic that the Next Generation Broadband upgrade would have occurred in Kilchattan Bay by now. This impression was further increased when a November 2015 Digital Scotland Press release indicated that Kilchattan Bay would be upgraded between January and March 2016.

When nothing had happened by March 2016 I had a conversation with HIE which can be summarised ‘Argyll and Bute Council objected to the preferred location of the two Kilchattan Bay cabinets, [the reason given was interference with recent resurfacing/surface dressing works which have been undertaken at the proposed location of the cabinets]. This caused BT to delete commitment for delivery between November-March from their programme. I understand that location for two cabinets has now been agreed between BT and Argyll and Bute Council and delivery will be in next quarter (April to June)’.

As a matter of fact the location of the cabinets was approved in July 2015 and there has been no Argyll and Bute Council resurfacing/road dressing work within many hundreds of yards of the locations in dispute.

This week I have seen a letter from Mr B. Dick, Director BT Scotland to Mr M. Russell MSP, saying that the cabinet dispute with Argyll and Bute Council has not been resolved and NGB delivery in Kilchattan Bay can not now be guaranteed before December 2016.

This has been confirmed by the Digital Scotland location checker which until recently said delivery from April to June but now says before December 2016.

The residents of Kilchattan Bay are still on a BT monopoly service of 0.5Mbps, they have tried as a community to improve their broadband service but have been prevented by Scottish government red tape and made to rely on funding it has given to BT. Now it appears that Argyll and Bute Council are going out of their way to delay the delivery of the improved service to residents in Kilchattan Bay.

Bute Rural Community Broadband Group would be grateful if Bute Community Council would use its good offices to find out why Argyll and Bute Council are continuing to delay the delivery of NGB to Kilchattan Bay, a three-month delay was acceptable but a six-month delay is not.

Yours sincerely,

H. T. H. Cromack, Chairman of Bute Rural Community Broadband Group