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Wireless broadband network to connect villages in Scottish highlands

Friday, March 13th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A £58,500 investment is to bring better broadband to rural communities in the Scottish highlands.

Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) is funding a wireless network that will bring speeds of up to 20Mbps to Perthshire residents.

A pilot project will initially link three villages near the Tay Forest Park currently struggling with speeds of around 1Mbps – Amulree, Trochry and Struan.

Work is being carried out by volunteers from the Highland Perthshire Communities Partnership (HPCP), with support coming from Perth and Kinross Council and the Griffin windfarm fund.

Five small-scale mobile masts are being erected at key locations. The group’s ambition is to add more to ensure that no-one in Highland Perthshire is left behind and that all access broadband speeds of 20Mbps.

CBS is a Scottish Government project led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). It supports communities across Scotland that are unlikely to benefit from the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) project, which aims to deliver coverage to 95% of Scottish premises by the end of 2017.

Shaun Marley of CBS said: “This project will open up access to homes and businesses locally who have been finding it difficult to carry out even the most basic of online tasks.

Creating new opportunities

“Better broadband will create new opportunities and benefits and allow people to choose to live, work and learn in what is a beautiful part of the Perthshire countryside.”

Bruce Patterson, the partnership’s project officer, said: “We’ve been working on this issue for more than a year and a half and are delighted that we could see services available by Easter.

“We are committed to providing a credible service to Highland Perthshire, based on a model that has been used and proven to work at Laggan.

“Though the DSSB roll-out is coming, there are vast areas of rural Perthshire that can’t be reached and for those that can it looks likely that it may be 2017 before they see fibre.

“We are concerned that without good services soon businesses and communities will struggle – and by doing this ourselves we can offer a way forward.

He continued: “It is our ambition to ensure that the whole of Highland Perthshire is a wi-fi zone. We will be a community business and all profits will be poured back into the business and into our communities.”

CBS director Mark Tate previously told Cable.co.uk the challenge in connecting remote communities is not a technical one, but a financial one.

“Certainly the technology is there. The challenge is never the technology,” he said.

“The challenge is the business model to make it work. The challenge is the sustainability.”

Mr Tate told us that BT would have delivered fibre broadband commercially to 21% of properties in the highlands and islands.

“The investment that’s being put in by HIE, the Scottish government, DCMS and others, will take that to 84%.

“So the areas we’re dealing with – the final 16% in the Highlands and Islands and the final 4% in the rest of Scotland – it’s right on the edge of market failure.

“What we’re doing, and successfully so far, is trying to create a market from that final x% to enable companies to come in and deliver solutions, and to empower communities to do the bit that they can do to make it easier for companies to come in and deliver solutions.”

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