A £5 million fund will help bring next generation broadband to some of Scotland’s remotest communities, it was announced today.
The Community Broadband Scotland initiative will act as a one-stop-shop for rural community groups, providing them with information and advice to find solutions for broadband delivery in their areas.
From October, a new telephone helpline and website delivering advice and practical support will be made available, and, a dedicated team of staff will work on the ground to provide hands on assistance to groups in need.
Communities will be eligible to apply for seed funding under the initiative to enable them to obtain greater access to the internet.
The first round of funding will focus on supporting a small number of community projects, which will be used as case studies for wider roll out across Scotland.
During his visit to the Elvanfoot Development Group in the village of Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Alex Neil, said:
“Everyone recognises the importance of access to broadband to ensure that our local communities flourish.
“Broadband should not be considered a luxury in rural areas; it is essential to enhance the quality of life and stimulate the growth of the local economy.
“This investment of £5 million, over the next three years, will see targeted support being provided to community projects to enable them to deliver broadband solutions for their areas.
“Increasing access to broadband is a key priority area for the Scottish Government, and we are currently progressing plans to develop a world class digital infrastructure by 2020.”
Amanda Burgauer, Secretary of Elvanfoot Development Group, said:
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have this project initiated in Elvanfoot and are really excited about being able to access advice and support to get our local community broadband-connected, with all the social and economic benefits that connectivity will bring.”
Alex Paterson, Highlands and Islands Enterprise Chief Executive, said:
“This is an important new initiative which will support communities develop innovative solutions to bring fast, reliable broadband services to some of Scotland’s most rural locations. While there are challenges there can be significant economic and social benefits from improving broadband. The seed fund will provide the help communities need to ensure Scotland has a world class digital network by 2020.”
Councillor Stephen Hagan, COSLA’s Regeneration and Sustainable Development spokesperson said:
“I welcome the launch of the seed fund and the start of a project to investigate what can be delivered in terms of improved broadband coverage for all Scottish communities, no matter how remote they are from the current broadband network. Cosla look forward to being involved in the work on delivering a series of case studies across a wide range of different communities with varying needs and existing infrastructure.
“Hopefully these communities can benefit from the support offered by Community Broadband Scotland to deliver benefits for themselves and others in terms of sustainably funding infrastructure to deliver faster broadband across all of Scotland by 2020.”
Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust said:
“High speed broadband is fast becoming an essential service – providing access to public services, supporting local economies and enhancing quality of life. It is essential that rural areas are not left behind as superfast broadband technology becomes more widely available across Scotland.
“The Carnegie UK Trust believes that local communities are often best placed to tackle the issues that they face. The Community Broadband Scotland initiative will give a number of pioneering communities the support and inspiration to take that critical first step to their broadband future.”
Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) is a national programme delivering a Scotland wide service to support community broadband solutions. CBS is a partnership between Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scottish Enterprise, COSLA and Local Government.
CBS will provide a suite of support mechanisms including advice, guidance and toolkits; an online and telephone resource; a network of staff on the ground delivering hands on advice and support locally to communities; and a Rural Seed Fund.
It will initially be targeted at communities in the 10-15% least likely to benefit from a next generation broadband (NGB) solution under the Step Change 2015 Programme and will provide an opportunity for those communities to take greater ownership, progress more quickly and trial innovative technology and business models.
The commitment to invest £5 million initially over the next three years in a Rural Seed Fund was made in the Infrastructure Action Plan. Round 1 (Pioneer Phase) of the fund (up to £1m) will be focussed on providing targeted support to a small number of community projects. The purpose is to support projects that will provide good learning, will act as case studies and will provide technical solutions and business models that could be replicated across Scotland through further rounds of the Fund. The projects will aim to test a range of different community models and issues.
The Elvanfoot Development Group is a community group in remote rural South Lanarkshire, created in February 2012 to improve community resources and infrastructure. The group is prioritising broadband as the first step in their development project.