Funding for rural broadband

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Funding to improve broadband coverage in rural areas has been announced.

Five Local Action Groups – in Forth Valley and Lomond, the Outer Hebrides, Orkney, South Lanarkshire and the Borders – will each take a share of around one million euros under the LEADER Broadband Challenge Fund, part of the Scotland Rural Development Programme.

Responding to a parliamentary question today, Rural Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“I am pleased to announce today that five LEADER Local Action Groups will receive awards under the Broadband Challenge Fund announced on 1 July 2010.

“These are Borders, Forth Valley and Lomond, Outer Hebrides, Orkney and South Lanarkshire.

“Thirteen Local Action Groups bid for the funding. The assessment panel, comprised of Scottish Government and external experts in rural community development and IT, judged the winning bids as providing the maximum value for money in terms of advancing our rural development objectives and deploying relevant broadband provision.

“The estimate is that around 88 businesses will be supported from these bids. In Lomond Valley alone the estimate is that 100 new jobs will be created.”

Case studies:

Broadband access on the remote Orkney islands of Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre is currently sporadic, inconsistent and variable in quality. As a community seeking to increase sustainability and attract new visitors and residents, access to a reliable broadband connection is essential. The islands’ Local Action Group will receive £9,500 from the LEADER Broadband Challenge Fund to set up free Wi-Fi access to a high speed broadband connection, with laptop access from various community facilities. The funding will allow small businesses on the islands – particularly those involved in the tourism industry – to improve their marketing and online trade. A part-time trainer will also be employed, creating a new job on the islands.

The Forth Valley and Lomond Local Action Group will receive £186,124 for a joint project to pilot a powerful wireless connection for businesses and communities in areas where lack of broadband, unreliable broadband or slow connection speeds are severely hindering economic activity. This is the first such project of this scale in the UK. In future it could be extended to the entire Forth Valley and Lomond area and replicated in other parts of rural Scotland, at a lower cost than many other options. An estimated 100 new jobs will be created as a result of the funding.

The Scottish Borders LEADER Local Action Group will receive £294,075 to provide households and businesses in Cardone, Whitsome, Upper Ettrick, Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus with a reliable, high speed broadband connection. The introduction of high speed broadband is integral to the competitiveness of the local economy, and will substantially improve the marketing and communication opportunities available to 49 micro businesses and three social enterprises including inns, a caravan park and a sailing centre. It will give the businesses access to wider markets, supply routes, market research and other services which will strengthen their business offering and customer service. This in turn will boost the Borders tourism industry and allow this unique area to contribute its own identity within Scotland.

The Outer Hebrides LEADER Local Action Group will receive £310,300 from the Rural Broadband Challenge Fund to kick-start projects in the villages of Tolsta and Dalmore on the Isle of Lewis, Tolmachan and Huisinis on the Isle of Harris and Grimsay on North Uist. The projects will provide broadband access to these areas, which currently have no broadband service. The communities will be provided with technical support and maintenance to ensure that all subscribers receive a reliable broadband connection.

The South Lanarkshire LEADER Local Action Group will receive £45,000 to provide households and businesses around Gilkerscleugh, Crawfordjohn with a reliable broadband connection. The area currently has no broadband provision. The project will allow young people to access new learning opportunities online, and give the five small businesses which operate from the area a chance to improve their services and business opportunities through better communication. The new facilities will improve residents’ quality of life, access to services and business opportunities.

The Rural Broadband Challenge Fund was launched on 1 July 2010 and is delivered through LEADER, part of the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP).

LEADER aims to increase the capacity of local rural community and business networks to build knowledge and skills and encourage innovation and co-operation to tackle local development objectives. Local Action Groups are a partnership of representatives from the local council, the local enterprise company, rural businesses, public agencies and voluntary action and community groups.

The SRDP is designed to develop rural Scotland from 2007 to 2013. Individuals and groups may seek funding from the programme to help deliver the Government’s strategic objectives in rural Scotland.