Carmichael secures parliamentary debate on copper wire network shutdown

8 Dec 2023

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has secured a parliamentary debate on the planned shutdown of the copper wire telecommunications network. The debate, to be held at 9.30am on Wednesday 13th December, will be an opportunity to raise concerns about the implications of the gradual closure of the copper wire network for rural and island communities. Most of the copper wire network planned to be closed by the end of 2025 as it is replaced with broadband connections, but rural and island areas of the UK have some of the lowest rates of broadband connection.

Besides the issue of rollout of broadband to the isles, concerns have been raised about the resilience of the new system in the case of power cuts. During power outages in Shetland in December 2022, some properties were left without power for as long as six days. The replacement “Voice over Internet Protocol” (VoIP) system only has a resilience of one hour using a backup battery with Openreach, and relies on a broadband connection.

Mr Carmichael said:

“I have raised concerns about the copper wire network in Parliament before and the answers have not been good enough. Now is the time for ministers and officials to brush up and front up on what they are going to do to ensure that the new systems work for vulnerable people and for our island communities.

“The news this week that Openreach has now reached the “halfway” point in its broadband upgrade programme will be cold comfort for the many households in the isles which continue to wait. Without government intervention businesses are always going to put rural and island communities at the back of the queue – that cannot be acceptable.

“We need a proper plan to maintain resilience in future, whatever happens to the copper network. There is a lack of confidence in the switchover as things stand – particularly for people who are the most isolated or reliant on emergency connections.

“I would urge anyone with concerns about the changes to the network to contact my office ahead of the debate, so that we can present the strongest possible evidence of the potential impact. This is not about opposing change – but it is about ensuring that the needs of our communities are heard.”

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