HIE is driving forward an initiative with initial funding of £5m, across the whole of Scotland, to enable the most remote and rural communities transform the way they live, work and learn by getting connected to fast and superfast broadband. Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) is a key element of the Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy which aims to deliver world-class digital infrastructure for Scotland by 2020.
HIE was chosen to lead this programme because of its extensive experience and expertise in working with communities to build capacity, acquire assets and build resilience.
CBS underpins the next generation infrastructure rollout programmes Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (in the Highlands and Islands and the rest of Scotland) which aim to deliver 40Mps-80Mbps to 85% to 90% of premises. CBS supports those communities that will not be reached to develop their own community-led solutions to deliver improved connectivity.
Superfast or next generation broadband (NGB) will transform economic and social opportunities available to communities in remote areas as well as helping to reduce our carbon footprint. It will enable the delivery of public services, open up online learning opportunities, support remote and home working possibilities as well as enabling people to download music or catch up on missed TV programmes - transforming the way people in the most peripheral areas live, learn and work.
By working with the most remote and rural communities the challenge is not insignificant, yet the size of the opportunity is immense. The technology is available and access to affordable backhaul will be greatly enhanced as the core superfast broadband infrastructure programmes are rolled out.
As part of Scottish Government’s drive to deliver future-proofed digital connectivity across all of Scotland, HIE was invited to develop a Scotland-wide proposal to assist the development of community-led broadband projects in the 10%-15% ‘hard to reach’ communities that are least likely to benefit from the next generation broadband investment programmes.
CBS provides a one-stop-shop (an online web resource, access to advisers and funding) to assist these ‘hardest to reach’ communities find solutions specific to their area. The initial phase focused on supporting six pioneer communities to demonstrate what can be achieved. Lessons learned are now shaping the wider roll out of support. A key challenge is creating “communities of interest” that have sufficient scale to build sustainable, robust solutions.
CBS is a partnership programme, with HIE undertaking the lead delivery role, comprising Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), Scottish Local Authorities Economic Development Group (SLAEDG), Carnegie UK Trust, Cairngorms National Park Authority, and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority.
We will reduce the digital divide and transform the way remote and rural Scotland lives, works and learns.
Archie MacDonald, Tel. 01851 707301