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24/08/15 11:15

Broadband help for rural communities

New support scheme launched.

A new funding programme for broadband for rural communities across Scotland has been launched by the First Minister.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced the new Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) broadband grant scheme is now open for applications.

The £9 million fund will be used to support community-led broadband projects similar to GigaPlus Argyll – a ground-breaking scheme where groups of hard-to-reach communities get together to procure super-fast broadband services from commercial providers.

Ms Sturgeon made the announcement on a visit to Oban’s Phoenix Cinema, which has previously received SRDP support and where a new wifi tourist information kiosk has been installed.

The First Minister said:

“Superfast broadband is being rolled out across Scotland with Scottish Government support, and we are more than halfway towards meeting out target under the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) Programme. The social and economic benefits are clear, as demonstrated by this innovative and accessible wifi tourist information kiosk in Oban’s Phoenix Cinema.

“This SRDP funding will help communities in the hardest to reach broadband areas follow in the footsteps of the pioneering GigaPlus Argyll project, and work together to bring superfast services to homes and businesses.

“This scheme takes the available funding for community broadband projects up to £16.5 million in Scotland, over and above the £400 million DSSB investment. It is another step to achieving the Scottish Government’s aim of delivering world class connectivity by 2020 and, enabling people across Scotland to connect any time, any place, anywhere, using any device.”

The Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-2020 broadband grant scheme will be delivered by Community Broadband Scotland (CBS). CBS Director, Zoe Laird said:

“Access to high speed, robust, broadband has a transformational effect on how people live, work and learn, particularly in our most remote and rural communities. Our role at CBS is to help communities find innovative solutions and GigaPlus Argyll is a great example of an innovative business model that will bring transformational and robust broadband to the most remote of premises across eight island and mainland communities. The SRDP scheme will enable us to help even more rural communities across Scotland get digitally connected.”

Eight island and mainland communities on the west coast of Scotland have joined forces with Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) for the community-owned GigaPlus Argyll project. Chairman Moray Finch said:

“Broadband connectivity in the GigaPlus Argyll area is poor, with speeds less than 2 Mbps, and our communities on the islands and Craignish peninsula are outside the reach of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband fibre scheme. By getting together with CBS, we have been successful in securing tenders and appointing a company specialising in the installation and operation of wireless superfast broadband which will deliver affordable services to 1,400 homes and businesses, opening up huge opportunities for us.”

Calum Ross, Vice Chair of Argyll & the Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC), said:

“AITC is acutely aware of the importance of superfast broadband and 3G/4G coverage across our rural area to help grow tourism. Innovative solutions are vital in our remote rural areas, and our kiosks are a prime example of this as is GigaPlus Argyll.

“We are also very keen to ensure that businesses are geared up to make the most of superfast broadband when it is available, to help meet the needs of their own businesses and also, most importantly, the needs of their customers. We have a great capacity building resource in place locally through our team of development agents and we are looking forward to helping local groups of tourism businesses take advantage of the support the new SRDP can offer for community solutions in the more remote rural areas in Argyll and the Isles."

Oban Phoenix Cinema Director Louise Glen said:

“The Phoenix already has wifi which is hugely popular with local customers and tourists, but superfast broadband will make a massive difference to our cinema. It will make it much easier and faster for us to access the latest releases, as well as enabling us to screen live-streamed events. I know that superfast infrastructure is currently being installed in Oban and we can’t wait to get connected.”

Notes to editors

About the Broadband Scheme:

The Broadband Scheme is part of the £1.3 billion Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-2020. More information, and details of how to apply, can be found here

This scheme is being is administered by Community Broadband Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID). It is open to groups of communities to establish and scale-up the demand for superfast broadband services in areas that are unlikely to be served by the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme (DSSB). Communities will link together to form joint community projects which can be taken to the market to deliver a broadband solution for their area.

The scheme will:

  • support communities to establish and scale-up the demand for superfast broadband services in areas that are unlikely to be served by the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme (DSSB)
  • support community projects that create, improve and extend superfast broadband infrastructure in remote and rural Scotland.

About CBS

Community Broadband Scotland is a £7.5 million Scottish Government project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It inspires, supports, and empowers remote and rural communities across Scotland to establish community broadband networks, delivering improved connectivity which will transform the way communities live, work and learn. Its focus is to support areas in the hardest to reach broadband areas which are currently unlikely to benefit from the £400 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme (DSSB). DSSB aims to reach 95% of Scottish premises by the end of 2017. CBS has two product offerings:

  • an aggregated approach to deliver Next Generation Broadband services with more commercial involvement and subject to specific state aid approval processes which will be delivered under the SRDP Broadband Scheme.
  • a funding mechanism for smaller projects for communities which are capable and willing to deliver the solution themselves.

About DSSB
The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative is delivering over £400 million of investment to extend fibre broadband access to areas where the market would not otherwise go. The programme will extend coverage to 95% of Scottish premises by the end of 2017, with an interim milestone of 85% coverage by March 2016.

The programme consists of two regional projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the Rest of Scotland. Both contracts were awarded to BT in 2013. The Digital Scotland rollout has passed more than 394,000 premises since it started. It means the project is more than half way to its target of making the technology available to 750,000 properties by the end of the contract period.

Superfast broadband infrastructure is being installed in Oban and across Argyll and Bute under the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative. So far, 13,560 premises in Argyll and Bute have access to superfast broadband.

About the Oban Phoenix Cinema

Oban’s Phoenix Cinema has previously received SRDP Argyll & Islands LEADER funding. It is also Scotland’s only Living Wage-accredited cinema.

About AITC

Argyll & the Isles Tourism Cooperative (AITC) was set up as a cooperative in 2012 to bring together the many marketing groups operating within Argyll & the Isles. At the outset AITC received SRDP LEADER funding towards a ‘stronger together’ campaign to devise an umbrella brand and start promoting the area as a must visit destination.

AITC now receives funding from HIE, Argyll & Bute Council, Calmac and others to drive forward a three year development programme which includes capacity building support at a local level. AITC has a development agent network able to work with groups to help them take advantage of the new SRDP funding for community broadband initiatives.

AITC strongly supports the roll out of broadband and mobile connectivity and is actively encouraging members to enhance their digital skills in readiness. AITC is the first destination to engage in the recently launched Digital Tourism Scotland programme being led by HIE and SE with the first workshop taking place on 20 August 2015.

The AITC route planner kiosks which received HIE funding as a digital innovation initiative have been developed to address the current lack of connectivity by allowing visitors to plan a personal itinerary and have this emailed to their smart phone/tablet so they have it to hand when out and about in the area.