Orkney representatives lead discussions on improving island connectivity

27 Oct 2023
Orkney Digital Forum

Orkney’s parliamentarians, Liam McArthur MSP and Alistair Carmichael MP, today hosted the latest Orkney Digital Forum at the St Magnus Centre in Kirkwall.

Once again, the Forum provided an opportunity for constituents to hear from those with responsibility for rolling out broadband and mobile phone coverage in the county and to raise questions and concerns about the plans.

Presentations were delivered by representatives from the Scottish Government, Openreach, Virgin O2 and Orkney Islands Council. A further online Digital Forum is due to take place in the near future, providing an opportunity for those unable to attend the in-person event to engage in the discussions about Orkney’s digital requirements going forward.  Meantime, anyone wishing to receive copies of the presentation slides should contact the Orkney parliamentary office.

Commenting afterwards, Liam McArthur MSP said:

“Improving broadband and mobile coverage across Orkney has become an ever more pressing priority. Despite progress in recent years, speeds and coverage levels remain well below the national average, with sizeable parts of the county languishing in digital ‘notspots’.

“Work is underway to address this and, as ever, the Orkney Digital Forum provides a good opportunity for constituents to hear directly from those involved in the roll out of fibre broadband and expansion of 4G coverage in the islands. There are understandable concerns about the delays in taking forward the improvements as well as questions about who will and won’t benefit.

“Ultimately, the Scottish Government has committed to making superfast broadband available to every household and business in the country. While the original deadline for achieving this has long since passed, it is a commitment that people in Orkney still expect Ministers to deliver.

“Meantime, I would like to thank the various speakers at today’s Forum, especially those who travelled to Orkney to take part. I am also grateful to those who took the time to attend or submitted questions in advance. The Forum has proved useful over the years and Alistair and I will ensure this sort of engagement continues going forward.”

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said:

“Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Digital Forum in Kirkwall today. The conversation was wide ranging and well informed. I am grateful to everybody who turned up to have their say, as well as to each presenter, representing the Scottish Government Digital Directorate, Openreach, Virgin O2, and Orkney Islands Council respectively.

“The new concern which is developing around our connectivity issues is the proposal to turn off the ‘copper network’ of landlines next year.

“I think that deadline is unachievable, but this change is clearly coming and we cannot allow it to happen in such a way that we are left in the Northern Isles without a proper service.

“Let’s not forget that late last year much of Shetland was without power for several days. Being able to contact people in the more difficult to reach parts of our islands was essential to making sure that they were safe.

“Regulators and telecoms companies south have to understand the realities of life in the isles before they go too far in making decisions of this sort.”

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