A rural community between Aberdeen and Dundee is celebrating the introduction of faster broadband to over 50 homes and businesses thanks to a partnership led by local volunteers and supported by Community Broadband Scotland (CBS).
The community network has been developed in the Howe of the Mearns and is based around the village of Marykirk. Most properties in the area have received broadband speeds of less than 1 Mbps via their landlines.
The broadband network, Marykirk.com, was designed by a team of community volunteers and a pilot system was rolled out in July 2013. The project started off with a handful of houses connected as a test bed to prove the network design which uses a wireless link from Montrose to repeater stations.
The community then approached CBS for advice and support on how the network could be expanded and made substainable.
The wireless technology delivers services as fast as wired and users are achieving speed of 20 Mbps.
Project leader Bill Buchan said: “The support from CBS has made the difference, allowing us to expand and enhance our network for our customers. We now plan to install at least another 100 premises this year. The great part of this job is the look on people's faces when internet services, which many people take for granted, work for the first time. Simple things such as BBC iPlayer, Skype, Netflix, or even YouTube.
“We now have engineering businesses, farms, wind turbines, restaurants, grand mansions, small bothies, photo studios, and lots of houses connected. We have people who can now work from home.
“It’s so important for rural folks like us to get as good as, if not better access to the internet than folks in urban areas. I'm glad that we're able to redress some of this imbalance for our area. It’s been hard work, don't get me wrong - but the satisfaction it gives really makes it worthwhile."
CBS, as part of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), has been tasked by the Scottish Government to work with communities across Scotland who are unlikely to benefit from the £410 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, which aims to reach 95% of premises by 2017. CBS helps them find sustainable ways to get faster broadband. The project forms part of the Scottish Government’s Digital Scotland strategy.
Shaun Marley, CBS advisor for the area, said: “Access to faster, more reliable broadband can transform the way people in rural communities live, work and learn. We are working with across Scotland to find alternative ways for people who won’t be reached by the current fibre roll-out to get better broadband. We have already been able to help over 600 households and businesses get connected.”
If you are interested in developing a similar project you can find out more at www.communitybroadbandscotland.org.uk