Plans to withdraw copper broadband has been called into question by one MHK.

It comes after a recent announcement by Manx Telecom that telecom providers are moving towards fibre, with 85% of households already having the technology available to them.

Yet Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK, Jason Moorhouse, is concerned that no alternative would be provided to households that won’t be able to access fibre.

In Tynwald this week he asked the Enterprise Minister Tim Johnston what discussions took place with Manx Telecom prior to its recent announcement of the complete switch from copper to fibre based services for new customers.

Mr Johnston said that the department meets regularly with Manx Telecom about its work to deliver fibre broadband to the remote and rural areas of the island.

He said: ‘We are aware that Manx Telecom is in its very early stages of thinking about how copper services might be withdrawn.

‘At this time the department understands that withdrawal only applies to new requests from residents in premises which already have fibre installed, or for new supply from those able to order fibre.

‘This will be at no cost to the residents and the current proposals will have no effect on the existing contracts.

‘The department is satisfied with its discussions with CURA that there are sufficient regulatory controls in place to ensure that the consumers best interests are served in relation to this matter.

‘CURA, as an independent regulator, must act in the best interest of the public in telecoms matters and it’s my understanding that Manx Telecom cannot withdraw access to products without the consent of CURA and in accordance with any conditions that the regulator may deem appropriate to set.’

He said that the move will be in the next five to ten years.

He said: ‘By August 2024, 99% of the 12,500 or so properties that were identified as in rural or remote areas will have fibre paths pass them.

‘If there are issues then there will be other options made available, , whether it is through 4G, 4G plus, and also Starlink and fixed wireless services.

‘The key point to make here is that it is under regulation, Manx Telecom or any other provider will have to make sure that they are providing a basic service.

‘The regulator will always dictate that there has to be a minimum level of service, so a low user tariff will have to be provided at any level, and that could either be copper or fibre.’

He said that whatever happens, nobody will be left in a situation where they do not have access to telecommunications as it is a basic right.

He added that the transition to fibre is likely to be a long process, and ‘the department will work alongside both Manx Telecom and the regulator during this phase to ensure that consumers are able to benefit from these new high speed services.’