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Significant Telecoms and Internet Outage on Shetland Causes Chaos

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 (3:43 pm) - Score 812

The Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has called for an “urgent investigation” after residents on the remote Scottish Shetland Islands were left without vital emergency services cover for around five hours on Saturday due to a major telecoms outage with BT’s infrastructure. Several thousand local phone, mobile and broadband connections were also disrupted.

According to BT, the outage began before 1pm on Saturday after the Wideford Hill radio station on Orkney suffered a major failure due to “blown rectifiers and fuses“. The incident also disrupted vital air traffic and coastguard circuits, which even caused the closure of Sumburgh Airport and resulted in 11 flights being cancelled.

A BT Spokesperson said (Shetland News):

Emergency services also went down in parts of Orkney and Shetland. Engineers traced the fault to blown rectifiers and fuses at the radio station and restored service around five hours later when all the blown equipment was replaced. [We] apologise for this break in service which is under investigation.”

Admittedly Shetland is now linked by a Subsea Fibre Optic cable back to the mainland, although this doesn’t carry all of the communications traffic and some services are still reliant upon the old radio stations. Similarly those cables have, from time to time, also suffered outages of their own (here), but they do perhaps offer one option for a back-up.

Tavish Scott has also called for a back-up service and demanded that BT give a full explanation for the incident. “We will want to know what the emergency services and the NHS are now doing to ensure they do not depend on a communications system that failed. There are major questions to answer. I will also be raising this with the Scottish Government,” said the MSP.

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