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Pioneering Argyll islands community broadband project

04 August 2015

Eight island and mainland communities on Scotland’s dramatic west coastline have joined forces with Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) to develop a ground-breaking, community led, superfast broadband project.

Initially led by the Mull and Iona Community Trust, communities representing some of the hardest to reach broadband areas on Colonsay, Mull, Iona, Jura, Lismore, Islay, Luing and the peninsula of Craignish are working together to create community owned GigaPlus Argyll.

Following an open competitive procurement GigaPlus Argyll chose Lincoln based AB Internet Limited to work with the innovative community / private sector partnership.

With residents in many areas currently struggling with speeds below 2 Mbps, the project will deliver up to 50 Mbps, changing the way people live, work and learn across the GigaPlus Argyll area.

CBS has worked closely with and supported the community through the tender process and approved funding of £988k to support the roll-out of the community owned wireless network which will bring access to more than 1,400 homes and businesses.

The project will look to maximise coverage in identified areas where the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband fibre project is unlikely to reach. CBS is a Scottish Government initiative, delivered across Scotland by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It supports people in the hardest to reach broadband areas to look at how community networks could help them get better connected.

Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay, said: “This is a pioneering project overcoming significant geographical, engineering and commercial challenges to bring superfast broadband to homes and businesses not only scattered across communities, but in this case, across islands.

“Every day we are building on the growing broadband infrastructure, reaching further into our rural and remote areas. Every forward step supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver first-rate connectivity in Scotland by 2020, ensuring we are a world class digital nation.”

GigaPlus Argyll Ltd (GPA) has procured and will manage the project which will be delivered in phases. It is likely that the south of Mull and Lismore will be connected first, followed by Luing and the northern end of Jura. From these key locations, the deployment will spread north-west across Mull, south through Colonsay, the Craignish Peninsula and parts of Jura, to the Loch Gruniart area to the west of Islay, and to Ulva and Iona with project completion expected in June 2016.

Moray Finch is Chairman of the newly formed GigaPlus Argyll and General Manager of the Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT). MICT is involved in delivering a wide range of community services and projects and is supporting the GigaPlus project.

He commented: “Connections in all of these areas are poor, many with speeds less than 2 Mbps, and the project will deliver transformational change to island residents and businesses. To go from the superslow lane to being able to offer affordable broadband to meet the needs of homeowners as well as uncontended commercial connections for businesses will open up huge opportunities for us.”

An economic impact assessment for the project highlights that access to better broadband could deliver at least £3.6m to the area from increased economic activity. There will be additional benefits during the construction, with the creation of 8 full-time jobs.

CBS Director Mark Tate, said: “Finding ways to bring robust high-speed broadband to our most remote and rural communities, where all communications are notoriously difficult, will have a transformational impact on the way people live, work and learn. It opens avenues in both social and economic terms.

“This project is truly ground-breaking in the way it brings together the community, the private sector and public sector advice, support and funding to deliver a robust and sustainable next generation solution. The service will be delivered over a community-owned infrastructure that will be operated by a commercial internet service provider on a fixed term contract/lease with local labour. We were delighted with the quality and number of bidders prepared to take on this challenge and look forward to working with AB Internet and GigaPlus Argyll as we move into delivery stage.”

Darren Round of AB Internet said: “We’re really excited about helping to change the lives of the locals. Regardless of how you look at it, from the technical platform to the commercial model, or the community involvement to the headline user speeds, this is a ground-breaking project.”

In addition to the delivery of the infrastructure, CBS will work with GigaPlus Argyll, the HIE digital team and community groups to support local people with events and advice to get the most out of their new connections.

  • About Community Broadband Scotland
    Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) is a 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.

    It’s focus is to support areas in the hardest to reach broadband areas which are currently unlikely to benefit from the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme. DSSB aims to reach 95% of Scottish premises by the end of 2017.
  • GigaPlus Argyll
    GigaPlus Argyll is a community benefit company formed by the eight communities. The company is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and has the ability to offer community shares. It is currently run by a steering group which is made up of volunteers drawn from all corners of Argyll with a range of skills and experience and supported by Mull and Iona Community Trust.

    Find more information on the areas which will be covered by the project see their website >
  • AB Internet
    AB Internet is a Lincoln based Internet Service Provider that specialises in the delivery of NGA Compliant Superfast broadband services in the most remote parts of the UK. Its market-leading range of ‘Essential Broadband’ products are deployed UK-wide and are specifically designed to address the challenges faced by the ‘last 10%’ of homes and businesses in the UK that cannot get Superfast connectivity

    Find out more here >
  • About Mull and Iona Community Trust
    Mull and Iona Community Trust was formed in 1997 and is one of more than 200 Development Trusts across Scotland. They are community controlled for the long term benefit of their neighbourhood. MICT are involved a wide range of services and projects that range from a dementia singing group to a £1m Hydro scheme.

    Mull and Iona Community Trust is a company limited by guarantee and is recognised as a charity by the Inland Revenue. Registered Office: An Roth Community Enterprise Centre, Craignure, Isle of Mull, PA65 6AY. Registered in Scotland SC172897 Scottish Charity No. SC025995

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Anne Cleave 05/08/2015

This will make my research for my MA dissertation so much easier. To have access to the digital resources currently only available to others with high speed Broad Band will put me on a level playing field with post-grad students in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.

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