Residents in six communities across Scotland are to benefit as part of a £5 million fund that will help bring next generation broadband to hard to reach rural areas.
Three of these – Applecross, Colonsay and Tomintoul & Glenlivet are in the Highlands and Islands. Additional projects will be in Aberdeenshire, South Lanarkshire and Dumfries & Galloway.
Over the coming months, members of the local community will work with assigned broadband experts to develop ideas for improving internet access for local businesses and families.
This is being done through the Community Broadband Scotland initiative, which was launched in August to provide a one-stop-shop for rural community groups to develop broadband coverage in their areas.
Members of the communities will be offered technical advice and support, and experts will provide business planning tips to local residents.
Once plans have been put in place, funding will be allocated to roll out the proposals.
The pilot communities will benefit from the first round of allocations from the £5 million fund, with invitations for the second round being invited for early 2013.
Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, Nicola Sturgeon said: “Access to broadband is absolutely essential for rural communities like Applecross - both to enhance the quality of life and to stimulate the growth of the local economy.
“The six communities across Scotland to benefit from this first round of funding will act as case studies for future funding rounds.
“Increasing access to broadband for the whole of Scotland is a key priority area for this government, and that is why we have committed to providing next generation broadband access for the whole country by 2020.”
Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) is a national programme delivering a Scotland wide service to support community broadband solutions. CBS is a partnership between Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scottish Enterprise, COSLA and Local Government.
CBS will provide a suite of support mechanisms including advice, guidance and toolkits; an online and telephone resource; a network of staff on the ground delivering hands on advice and support locally to communities; and a Rural Seed Fund.
It will initially be targeted at communities in the 10-15% least likely to benefit from a next generation broadband (NGB) solution under the Step Change 2015 Programme and will provide an opportunity for those communities to take greater ownership, progress more quickly and trial innovative technology and business models.
More details are available here.