The first connections for an East Lothian community-led broadband project were welcomed by the First Minister at the Scottish Rural Parliament's Rural Summit in Musselburgh today.
With connectivity a high priority for many of the rural community representatives attending the event, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated the project which will provide better broadband for up to 250 premises in Humbie, Fala and neighbouring areas in East Lothian and Midlothian.
The roll-out is being delivered thanks to a partnership led by local volunteers and supported by Scottish Government Initiative, Community Broadband Scotland (CBS).
The wireless community broadband project is the first exciting venture to be delivered by not for profit community company Humbie & Lammermuir Community Enterprise Ltd (HLCE) which has been set up to improve infrastructure in the local area. With homes and businesses struggling with download speeds of less than 2 Mbps, the group secured £152,000 funding from CBS to move their local broadband up a gear.
Speaking ahead of the rural summit where digital connectivity will be one of many areas discussed with representatives from public bodies across Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
"Our rural communities make a crucial contribution to Scotland and improving digital connectivity doesn't just boost economy opportunities, it transforms the way people live, work and learn, particularly in remote and rural Scotland.
"The HumbieNET project in East Lothian is a good example of the work that Community Broadband Scotland is taking forward throughout the country to bring broadband to homes and businesses in hard-to-reach communities. With each project, CBS is extending Scotland's growing broadband infrastructure, reaching further into these rural and remote areas, and this supports the Scottish Government's commitment to deliver world class connectivity."
The first 12 homes in Humbie are the start of what could be up to 250 connections across the area.
Al Beck of HLCE said: "Fast broadband is not a luxury. We need it to manage our finances, homes, health and businesses. We're delighted that this project will give our homes and businesses in this rural area, only 18 miles from Edinburgh, the same kinds of opportunities that other connected areas enjoy. We wouldn't be building the Humbie network without financial support from CBS and the Dun Law Trust.
"The Scottish Government's support for CBS is welcomed and as communities and public agencies work together on future community led broadband projects we're certainly happy to share our experiences to support easier access for all."
CBS, which is delivered Scotland wide by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), was able to help the community assess the feasibility of a community network by funding network design work. The costs of the community owned network has been supported through a £152,000 grant from CBS together with funding from the Dun Law Extension Community Benefit Trust.
Zoe Laird, Director of CBS, said: "I'm delighted to see the first connections for this project which are testament to the hard work of the local community. There are further projects planned in this area and this milestone provides inspiration for others at an earlier stage of planning their projects. We know how transformational broadband can be for people's lives once they get connected and I'm so pleased to be able to help this community and look forward to helping many others in the future."
The wireless service is being delivered by local company Lothian Broadband Networks Limited (LBNL) whose founders built Scotland's first community wireless broadband network 10 years ago and which is still in operation today. Engineers are currently building the new Humbie network which consists of an initial 8 masts. The build is on schedule to be completed by the end of this year.
Ian Smith, LBNL managing director said: "As a broadband company focused on delivering great connectivity we are delighted to see the first services coming through for Humbie customers who feared this was beyond their reach. It's a great community-led achievement and is one of many similar projects we hope to undertake in East Lothian and beyond."
Cllr John McMillan of East Lothian Council, said: "It's great news to see a community which had been struggling with really slow speeds with access to much needed faster broadband. East Lothian Council is committed to finding ways to get better connections across East Lothian and this example of a partnership approach between the local community and CBS has shown that solutions can be found. We are working closely with CBS to address similar problems in other parts of East Lothian as a matter of priority through area partnerships."