Communities in the Shetland Isles have been quoted more than £700,000 to have their homes connected to superfast broadband for the first time.
More than 1,800 households in some of the most remote parts of the islands have been excluded from the delayed R100 scheme – designed to bring faster internet connections to the area.
Instead, homeowners have been forced to rely on the Scottish broadband voucher scheme (SBVS), which offers a £5,000 grant to help meet the costs of setting up the connection, but only four applications have been received so far.
One local was quoted a whopping £725,000 by BT when they enquired about adding 15 properties on the islands to the broadband grid.
MSP Beatrice Wishart has since written to finance secretary Kate Forbes over the issue, branding the scheme a “missed opportunity”.
She said: “Out of more than 1,800 properties only four applications have been received for the main voucher, and only three have so far been issued.
“For those that need a fibre connection the quoted costs from commercial providers are beyond belief.
“A constituent has shared with me a recent quote from BT of £725,000.
“This is after the deduction of support grants from Ofcom and works out to around £48,000 each for the 15 properties in the community. This is clearly unaffordable.
“The communication infrastructure across Shetland needs upgrading for the digital world and R100 has proven to be a missed opportunity for many of my constituents.”
The first of 16 cables are being installed under the seabed surrounding Shetland as part of the £384 million R100 North contract, delivered by Openreach.
Fifteen islands in the Argyll and Bute, Highland, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands council areas are set to benefit from broadband capable of one-gigabit-per-second download speeds under the programme.
Work in the current stage is expected to be completed by September but the overall project’s completion date has been pushed back from 2021 to 2027.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has connected nearly a million premises to faster broadband through public sector investment worth an estimated £311m – including more than 9,000 premises on the Shetland Islands – despite telecoms powers being reserved to the UK Government.
“The £600m R100 contracts will deliver connections to more than 112,000 properties across Scotland and work to deliver faster broadband to the islands is progressing at pace.
“Since its launch in September 2020, the R100 SBVS has delivered more than 2,200 connections, with another 1,000 in the pipeline.
“As a demand-led scheme, it is ultimately a decision for members of the public whether to secure their connection in this way.”