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Ofcom CEO visits expanding community broadband project

05 October 2016

The chief executive of communications regulator Ofcom has been visiting a community-led broadband project in the Highlands to see first-hand the progress of the superfast broadband roll-out in Scotland.

CEO Sharon White, and Ofcom’s Director for Scotland Glenn Preston joined representatives from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to visit Badenoch Broadband based in Laggan.

The community led project, delivering better broadband since 2012 through a custom built wireless network, has gone from strength to strength and has recently reached capacity. Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), a Scottish government initiative lead by HIE, announced today that Badenoch Broadband has secured capital funding to further expand the service.

The investment of £41,800 from CBS, in addition to support and advice, means the community group can upgrade and extend the network - offering superfast broadband speeds for the first time to customers and business-class services to the many local enterprises.

In addition, Badenoch Broadband has benefitted from the roll-out of fibre broadband in the Highlands and Islands. Superfast broadband services have been available in Kingussie since autumn 2015, and Badenoch Broadband now plans to access faster backhaul services from the town.

The increased capacity has helped the group secure a contract to deliver broadband for local public services as part of the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN) network.

Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom, said the regulator's focus is on both improved access to connectivity and good customer service. She said: “Scotland has made good progress on broadband and 4G mobile, and we need to go further. So we’re working with the Government on extending fast broadband to all homes, and our rules for mobile mean that 95% of Scottish premises must receive a 4G signal by the end of next year. We’re also planning tougher rules on repairs and installations, and automatic compensation for people and businesses when things go wrong.”

Alistair Fleming, director of Badenoch Broadband, said: “Laggan has a wide diversity of businesses including the Pottery Coffee shop, Laggan Stores, B&Bs, hotels, self-catering, quad bike tours, several sporting estates and a mountain bike centre. All are very supportive of our project and we’re proud to be able to provide all of these businesses with connectivity in an area where no other options existed.

“Those that are here today – Ardverikie Estate, Gaskbeg Farm/Holidays and Wolftrax Mountain Bike Centre are a cross section of the type of business found in the Highlands; they have to cater for the increasing digital demands of tourism and also require fast connectivity for the other aspects of their business such as farming and forestry.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to upgrade and improve broadband services that we offer to both businesses and residents in and around Laggan. The funding from CBS has made this possible. Households will be able to keep up with nearby towns and cities and, with education dependent on online resources, children growing up in our community will not be disadvantaged just because they live in a rural setting.”

Dr Zoe Laird, director of CBS commented: “When Badenoch Broadband started their project local broadband speeds were below 0.5Mbps download. They have created a network which has provided a real change in connectivity for the people who live and work there.

“With additional investment from CBS we can help them grow, and the Digital Scotland fixed fibre roll-out has played a part by bringing the capacity they need to go faster closer. Both CBS and the digital team at HIE are committed to delivering the government’s ambition for Scotland to become a world-class digital nation by 2020. I’m delighted that as a result of the concerted investment through both projects, we have been able to support Badenoch Broadband as it continues to build on its success.”

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