MSP targets rural broadband issues

MSP Finlay Carson
MSP Finlay Carson

Galloway MSP Finlay Carson has called on broadband service suppliers to introduce a universal rural trigger so that problems at local exchanges are identified without numerous customers having to contact their supplier and report the same fault.

The MSP contacted BT to propose this mechanism after noticing a trend in the amount of people who were contacting him to report problems with their broadband connections.

At present, if people call their broadband supplier to report a problem they are often passed from pillar to post before being taken through a series of troubleshooting tests to identify any issues with their equipment. Failing this, the customers is told that an engineer will be sent out but if the engineer discovers that it’s a problem in their premises, they will incur a charge of £130.

Although there is currently a trigger to identify an exchange issue if a certain number of businesses in the same area contact their broadband supplier to report a problem, Mr Carson believes this number is set far too high for a rural exchange and, as far as he is aware, does not include residential households. His proposed new trigger would remedy this.

Mr Carson said: “In recent months, I have been contacted more and more by people who have no option but to get in touch with their elected representative to try and get their connection problems resolved.

“One household who contacted me had been offline for 10 days and without pressure from myself, I have no doubt that they would have been offline for several more days.

“It seems to me that an easy solution to this problem would be for broadband suppliers to get together and agree to a lower trigger level for rural exchanges which would immediately alert them to an exchange-wide problem. Such a mechanism would result in problems being solved much more quickly and happier customers for suppliers.

“In rural areas such as Galloway and West Dumfries, access to broadband is a lifeline, particularly for small businesses who depend on a reliable connection to function. Going 10 days without a connection is not good enough and that is why I took the decision to write to BT with this suggestion.

“BT have responded to say that they have raised my proposal as a case and I look forward to discussing this further with them and hopefully getting a positive response.

“I was pleased to learn recently that Openreach have gone on a recruitment drive to hire more than 180 engineers and 35 apprentices across the country, including 39 recruits in South West Scotland. These new hires will be used to help install new lines and fix faults more quickly. I welcome this announcement and hope that, as a result, people no longer have to wait several days before their connections are restored”.