Councillors reject Superfast Broadband success claims

COUNCILLORS HAVE QUESTIONED the validity of claims made over the rollout of high-speed broadband in Moray as they recounted ‘hundreds’ of complaints around the region.

A paper was put before members of the economic development and infrastructure committee yesterday in which it was claimed that 83% of homes in Moray now had access to new high-speed services.

The report outlined progress made in the first phase of the Scottish Government scheme operated by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and BT, claiming that 83% in Moray already had the service and they were on course to reach 93% coverage by the end of this year.

However, several members questioned the claims being made in the report on the success of the project – and now the local authority will seek a meeting with HIE to discuss the issue.

Councillors repeated many of the concerns raised by insideMoray in recent months, including customers being sold Infinity Broadband packages only to learn that they were actually unable to receive the advertised speeds – or anything even close to them.

Buckie member Gordon McDonald told the committee: “In the Buckie area BT are reporting that they have high speed broadband all over the place – and yet people are having to convert back from BT Infinity to the old systems because it is so slow, basically people are paying far too much for so little. I switched to high speed broadband and found no difference whatsoever.

“BT are not coming up to the mark and I would be astonished if the percentages are anything like what we have here.”

His ward colleague Councillor Sonya Warren added: “Everyone is reliant on BT who just do not comply with what they are actually saying.

“They are taking orders from people but they cannot actually fulfil them – they go through the motions of fulfilling them and putting it in place, but then people have to spend time without any broadband because their new Infinity does not work.

“I’ve been approached by over 100 people in the Buckie area and both Angus Robertson and Stewart Stevenson dealing with BT but they are not getting anywhere. Engineers say it is a capacity issue and there is a similar issue at Lossiemouth, BT are taking on more than they can actually provide.”

When other councillors reported similar issues throughout Moray, committee chairman Councillor John Cowe agreed to write to HIE inviting them to meet with all members and discuss the concerns being raised.

Editorial Comment

At one point on Tuesday, Councillor Gordon McDonald went so far as to accuse BT of fraud – such is the strength of feeling over the grandiose claims being made by HIE and BT over their much-vaunted High Speed Broadband rollout.

It is, quite frankly, about time our elected members spoke out in this manner – because, by all the evidence we have seen presented through insideMoray over the past year, it fits the mood of the general public who have been fed a diet of superlatives over the service they will receive only to be left frustrated and, quite often, out of pocket.

That Moray Council officials even presented such a paper without acknowledging the issues that exist in frankly incredible.  One even said that it was only when he read of issues just ahead of yesterday’s meeting that he decided to check with HIE – and then accepted their excuse that, actually, all the problems were down to individual internet providers and these were not significant.

HIE cannot, either, claim they were not aware of these issues and the reasons for them – this website had an exchange with them over this very issue.  We stopped receiving PR updates as a result.

We also took the fight to the chief executive of BT in Scotland, as did our MP, Angus Robertson, and an MSP, Stewart Stevenson.  While they were not simply blanked, it is very clear to everyone involved that both BT and HIE continued to turn a deaf ear even on them.

Enough is enough.  Too many people in Moray have been let down by this fiasco, the very least HIE, BT and the Scottish Government should do is call a halt to the PR machine telling everyone how wonderfully successful the Superfast Rollout has been in Moray – because it has not been, it has been in many areas little more than a fudge with many customers feeling they have been conned.