Community Broadband Scotland

Community Broadband Scotland

Funding - The Start Up Fund                                

The Scottish Government has invested £7.5 million to help establish superfast broadband in hard to reach areas of Scotland and to provide a Start Up Fund. The Start Up Fund is intended to help communities with the costs involved in establishing local community-led projects to access superfast broadband services – where projects can demonstrate local need and demand, and the capacity to make it happen at a reasonable cost. 

What can the Start Up Fund pay for?

The Start Up Fund is aligned with the three key stages a community will go through as it develops a local, community-led broadband initiative.  Whatever your starting point is, our advisers can guide you through the process.

Please note:  We will not support ongoing running or maintenance costs of the service.  This will need to be met by service users (subscribers) and other forms of income that may be available to the community body.

  • Stage 1:  Community Engagement  
    This is the starting point and involves some initial scoping work, establishing eligibility for CBS funding and engaging (sharing your idea) with the local community. More
  • CBS Seed Fund grant
    A standard grant of £2,000 (up to 100%).  Larger more complex projects can request up to £5,000.
  • Stage 2:  Project Planning
    Once eligibility with CBS criteria is confirmed (Stage 1) you can start more detailed planning of your project.  More
  • CBS Project Planning grant
    A standard grant of £7,500 (up to 100%).  Larger more complex projects can request up to £15,000.
  • Stage 3:  Capital Assistance
    Once the project planning stage is complete (Stage 2) you can apply for funding to establish the broadband project.  We will take your business plan as the basis of your application for CBS Capital Assistance.  It is likely that we will ask you for additional information to supplement your business plan.  In order to provide specific feedback as your business plan develops we are keen to see early drafts.  More
  • CBS Capital Assistance grant
    Up to a maximum of 89% of capital infrastructure costs (supply and installation).   The full 89% will only be awarded in exceptional cases as match funding from other sources is expected.A minimum community contribution of 11% is expected.  This should come from non-public sources,(for more information see 'How much funding can I apply for?' below)

Who can apply?

The Start Up Fund is open to organisations that are community-led, community-controlled and where profits are reinvested back into project delivery.  The local area must be designated as a broadband ‘non-spot’ or ‘basic white area’. This is where premises are unable to receive a 2Mbps (download) standard broadband service.  In addition, the local area should not be expected to be included in the deployment of a standard broadband service in excess of 2Mbps as a result of the Step Change programme. For more information about how CBS fits with the national Step Change programme click here.

An existing group or an unincorporated community organisation (such as an association or community council) can be supported by CBS in the early stages (Stages 1 and 2). However, to receive capital assistance (stage 3) an appropriate community body will need to be in place. We can discuss the various organisation options with you.  A CBS Seed Fund grant (stage 1) can be used to help form an appropriate community body.

Which communities are eligible?

Communities that are least likely to benefit from a next generation solution under the Step Change  national roll out programme can apply to the Start Up Fund for grant assistance to help establish local community-led broadband projects.

Checklist:  If you can tick the following boxes your community may be eligible for the Start Up Fund assistance:

  • Most people in my community do not currently receive a standard broadband speed of more than 2Mbps
  • My community is unlikely to benefit from a standard broadband service in excess of 2Mbps as a result of the Step Change programme

CBS advisers will be able to assist communities to assess whether they qualify under these criteria.

How to apply

The Start Up Fund is now open. It is a rolling fund; requests for funding support can be made at any time.

As there are a number of considerations regarding current and future broadband provision within any given locality, CBS does not have a standard application process.  Instead, we will respond to an ‘expression of interest’ and will work with you to establish whether your community is a ‘hard to reach area’ and thereby eligible for CBS support.

To express an interest in the Start Up Fund go to our contact us page and fill in the enquiry form.  Please type in ‘Start Up Fund’ as a title in the enquiry box. You can call our enquiries line on 0800 917 3688 to leave your details which will passed on to the relevant member of the CBS team.

We will match you with a CBS adviser who will get in touch to discuss your situation.  Your adviser will be on hand to guide you through the project eligibility process and to answer your questions.  Once we have the necessary information, we will advise whether or not you will be invited to make an application to the Start Up Fund. If you are not invited to proceed to the application stage we will explain the reasons for our decision.

How much funding can I apply for?

We anticipate CBS being the principal (lead) public funder for local community broadband projects where public funds are required to make the project happen.  Once we know more about the size of your community, the cost of your project and other sources of funds available, we will be able to guide you regarding an application to the Start Up Fund.

We wish to keep our funding as flexible as possible in order to help you make your project happen.  Due to the diversity of projects we anticipate supporting with a Capital Assistance grant (stage 3) we don’t feel a standard rate of funding support will best meet the needs of our applicants.  Instead we will work closely with you to help you achieve the required funding package.  We will however expect the community to provide some funding from its own resources and wherever possible to access private funds.  We would normally expect the community to provide a minimum of 11% of the capital costs from non-public sources*.  There are a number of ways a community can raise their contribution. Some communities have access to community benefit funds, others may wish to fundraise or offer a form of social investment such as community shares.  Alternatively, the community contribution can be generated by the project itself through an installation charge for new subscribers; this is standard practice for many commercial internet service providers. CBS advisers can talk you through the options.

*Note: By public money we mean money received from public bodies, local authorities and the Lottery.  Private money is funds received from non-public sources, such as donations, fundraising, bank borrowing or earned income and community benefit funds.

How will applications be assessed?

Establishing the viability of the project - in terms of start up costs, ongoing service provision and project management requirements - will be a key consideration.  It is likely that a minimum threshold for number of service users will be required for projects to be economically viable.

All Start Up Fund applications will be subject to a value for money assessment and we will also be interested in the level of support from the local community and businesses.

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