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Community will decide how to get broadband to remote parts of the Cairngorms

Monday, December 14th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

A community organisation will help decide the best way to get broadband to the hardest-to-reach areas of the Cairngorms after national park bosses gave it the green light.

At a meeting on Friday, the board of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) agreed to help set up a community organisation to help get broadband to people in the most remote areas of the park.

The new organisation will decide which technology is used to serve the park's residents with technical support from Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), which has already said it will invest £1.2m and is working with the park authority on the project.

People who currently have slow, or no, broadband, are hoped to benefit from the project, with similar initiatives in other areas expected to provide speeds between 15 and 24Mbps.

Some parts of the Cairngorms National Park, which is the UK’s largest national park, can already access fibre broadband as part of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband rollout.

They include Aviemore, Grantown-on-Spey, Kincraig, Nigussie and Ballater, with other communities in the park expected to benefit in 2016.

But there are around 1,000 homes and businesses in the national park which will not benefit from the rollout because they’re too far away from the fibre cabinets that are being installed.

It is those premises that the new project announced by the national park authority are hoped to benefit.

David Watson, the CNPA’s economic development manager, said improved connectivity was vital for the area.

“Improved digital infrastructure is vital to Scotland’s economy as it will allow businesses to operate effectively and compete globally.

One technology fits all

“Research suggests that high quality superfast broadband provision could add £7.5bn to the Scottish economy over the next ten years.

“This is dependent on having a suitable infrastructure in place to support the increasing demand for superfast broadband provision.”

Speaking at the meeting, board convener Peter Argyle said good broadband connectivity was vital for the economic development of the park.

Community Broadband Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to help areas that are unlikely to benefit from the superfast fibre broadband rollout.

Director Zoe Laird said: “There isn’t a one technology fits all solution for bringing rural communities high-speed broadband.

“The Digital Scotland rollout is bringing the fibre core network closer.

“However, the fibre cabinets used in towns and villages may not work for smaller, scattered communities of people.”

She said CBS would help local people assess “all the options”, adding: “By drawing together communities in the park area which are unlikely to be reached, we can develop viable ways to deliver superfast services.”

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