News / Cooper calls for clarity on broadband plans

Development committee chairman Alastair Cooper.

COUNCILLORS have again expressed disappointment at the lack of clarity from BT about its plans to improve broadband coverage in Shetland. 

Development committee chairman Alastair Cooper said he was “frustrated” that the telecoms giant had promised to come to the islands this month to explain its upgrade plans for 2015, but “we’re now on 22 April and there’s not been a peep about it”.

Speaking at a meeting in Lerwick Town Hall on Wednesday morning, Cooper expressed concern about the lack of communication from BT and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) about its intentions.

He added that there was a general worry in the wider Shetland community about telecommunications provisions: “Broadband is not even working very well in Lerwick, we have no Vodafone through large parts of Shetland, the blackberry is fairly silent… “

The committee heard a report from development services director Neil Grant about the future of high speed broadband provision in Shetland.


“What we need to be very clear on is the best mechanism for 100 per cent broadband coverage in Shetland and what is the best way to get there,” he said. “It might be that we do what every other local authority does and sit on our hands – I don’t think that’s the way forward.”

The report added that the SIC corporate plan’s commitment to have high speed broadband available to 84 per cent of the Shetland population by 2017 will need a “concerted effort by all those parties involved in Shetland’s telecommunications future”.

Meanwhile, Cooper asked the committee to hold a special meeting before May 27 to discuss how to address “staffing issues” at Shetland Telecom.

The project, which is part of the SIC’s economic development unit, has two members of staff. He believes they are “absolutely stretched right to the limit”.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


Cooper said: “At the end of the day, we have a very significant reputational issue for the council – with two workers, if anything happened to them, god forbid, we’d probably not be able to fulfil our commitments to our plans.

“We need a resource in that unit so that some of the work can go in other directions.”

Shetland Telecom, set up in 2009 to oversee fibre optic development in the isles, has an annual turnover for £450,000 from direct sales. That is more than five times the amount anticipated when it was created.

Lerwick South councillor Amanda Westlake added that Shetland’s communications link is a pertinent aspect of the isles’ ability to grow its economy.

She said: “Telecommunications is an absolutely key element of business generating for this island. I’m very happy to support anything we need to do to remove these barriers that’s restricting us.”


SIC deputy leader Billy Fox, meanwhile, expressed his personal gratitude to the staff members of Shetland Telecom.

The increase in broadband speed at his Quarff home – from 0.5Mbps to 55Mbps – “wouldn’t have happened without Shetland Telecom”, he noted with a smile.

In October last year, up to 4,000 households and businesses in Lerwick, Quarff and Sumburgh were given access to broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps as part of a £146 million project between BT and HIE to improve connections in rural Scotland.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.