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Cairngorms National Park Aims for GBP1.2m Community Broadband Fix

Monday, December 14th, 2015 (10:53 am) - Score 316
cairngorms

The Board of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) have agreed to work in partnership with the Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) initiative in order to setup a community organisation, which aims to deliver faster broadband services to around 1,000 premises in the region’s remotest areas.

The existing Digital Scotland project, which is also supported by funding from BT and the Broadband Delivery UK programme, has already help to expand “fibre broadband” services to a number of other National Park areas in Aviemore, Grantown-on-Spey, Kincraig, Kingussie and Ballater. More are set to follow during 2016.

However there are around 1,000 premises (homes and businesses) in the park that will not benefit from that work because they simply live too far away from the infrastructure, which would make a normal fixed line solution too expensive.

Instead CBS has committed £1.2m to help find and deliver a community solution, which is likely to mirror the fixed wireless broadband approach that they’ve adopted elsewhere; this tends to offer Internet download speeds that range from 15-24Mbps+.

David Watson, CNPA’s Economic Development Manager, said:

Improved connectivity is essential for the delivery of efficient public services and it contributes to a low carbon environment and having strong, connected communities in rural areas. Improved digital infrastructure is vital to Scotland’s economy as it will allow businesses to operate effectively and compete globally.

Research suggests that high quality superfast broadband provision could add £7.5 billion 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.”

Zoe Laird, CBS Director, added:

There isn’t a one technology fits all solution for bringing rural communities high-speed broadband. The Digital Scotland roll-out 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. CBS is here to help people assess all the options. By drawing together communities in the Park area which are unlikely to be reached, we can develop viable ways to deliver superfast services.”

A meeting was held to discuss the plans on Friday (11th Dec) and you can view the documents online (here). As part of that it’s interesting to note that CBS initially identified 6 community projects to act as ‘pioneers’ and two of those were located in the National Park (Corgarff + Glenbuchat and Tomintoul + Glenlivet).

However the above projects were selected before coverage of the Digital Scotland scheme was established and, as a result, “there have been difficulties in taking the work forwards, compounded by communications difficulties resulting from contractual relationships with BTOpenreach about which specific areas would benefit“.

More recently it has also emerged that the reach of BT’s fibre roll-out will be greater than originally envisaged and some of the ‘pioneer’ areas are thus expected to have some FTTC/P coverage. This is positive news, although the report notes that “ongoing uncertainty around this issue has caused significant delays and frustration in the relevant communities.”

Otherwise CBS usually funds up to 100% of demand stimulation and project development costs and 89% of capital costs. However projects are only supported where there is clear evidence of market failure and no prospect of solutions being delivered by other schemes. In the Cairngorms it’s estimated that 966 premises fall into this gap, affecting about 1,820 people.

The estimated cost of tackling this issue has been pegged at £1.274m, but there’s a lot of work left before the deployment can begin. Under the current plans they’d need to run a state aid consultation in Feb – March 2016, put out a tender to find the right supplier after that and then hope to award a contract by November 2016.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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