Community Broadband Event - Report and Presentations
Over the last few months the Southern Uplands Partnership has hosted a series of three events (funded by the National Lottery through “Awards for All”) about broadband access in the rural areas of south Scotland. Through a range of presentations, the events looked at how the Government was rolling out the broadband network and how communities and rural businesses can go about accessing high speed internet access for themselves.
Over 50 people attended the event in Moffat, to hear of the Scottish Government's attempts to ensure that rural areas aren't disadvantaged by lack of access to high-speed broadband, what relevant technologies are available to communities and the sort of steps that they will need to take if they are interested in developing local, social enterprises to provide services where commercial providers won't go. The audience also heard of the diverse technologies for the delivery of a range of services, including the provision of health care and for ensuring that rural communities are fully engaged in the democratic life of Scotland, the UK and beyond. All recognised that high speed broadband, properly designed so it is able to cope with ever increasing demands, is crucial to rural areas if they are to remain vibrant, healthy, connected and relevant in the future.
The second event took place in Newton Stewart at the beginning of May and attracted 22 people. This covered some of the same ground, but additionally heard about the B4RN project – a truly inspiring social enterprise that is delivering broadband through fibre-optic cables which are laid by the community. Not only will this project allow access to every premise that wants it at speeds of over 1000MB (no that isn’t a typo it is 1000MB!), but it will also in due course generate a profit which will allow the community to take on other projects. We also heard about the innovative use of “white-space” – the unused spectrum that has been freed-up through the introduction of digital TV. In time this may offer a cost-effective means of beaming broadband into remote areas where radio and fibre cannot reach. The event also had valuable input from Third Sector First – Dumfries & Galloway’s new organisation for promoting social enterprise, volunteering and links to community planning. Cara Gillespie set out the various ways that communities can structure themselves to facilitate funding applications.
The third and final event took place in Kelso on the 8th May and had 26 people present. This introduced Bob Murison, the new Community Broadband Scotland Officer who explained what support his organisation would be able to give to interested groups. Margaret Simpson from the Scottish Borders Social Enterprise Chamber gave an overview of what help and support her organisation could provide. The meeting also heard from the Networking Company which was developing very affordable wireless-systems to allow “hot-spots” to share their speeds with “not-spots”. This offered a mechanism for dealing with situations where very slow speeds are currently a problem.
Some strong messages came from the three events:
Generally there was a strong feeling of frustration that only 85% of premises in each local authority area would be connected. The provision of superfast broadband was seen as becoming as vital as the provision of water and electricity and, without it, communities and businesses would be severely handicapped. There was also frustration that it was not yet possible to identify the 15% - because if these were known, action and support could be targeted now.
The need to register demand for superfast broadband was supported by many – this can be done at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/SOSBroadbandRegistration.
Registration (even if 100% of a community signed-up) would not guarantee service provision, but it might sway future priorities.
It was clear that there was a need for an overall local strategy – to ensure that opportunities were not missed. In D&G, the opportunity to use fibre-optic cables being laid to new wind farms to also connect to rural communities was highlighted as a possibility. In the Borders, there was scope to use the current railway line development as a means of enhancing the broadband network. These and other opportunities could be aided if the delivery of future services could be better linked to the planning-process.
Solutions need not be complex or expensive, but would need facilitation and support and while the appointment of a Community Broadband Scotland Support Officer for S Scotland was good news, the project only had funding for 2 years, and the demand for help could easily exceed capacity.
Feedback on the events was largely very positive with over 90% of those who completed an evaluation sheet saying the events were good or very good.
All the presentations given are available below.
B4RN ( pdf file size 598 Kb )
Community Broadband Scotland ( pdf file size 2.75 Mb)
Scottish Borders Social Enterprise Chamber ( pdf file size 325 Kb )
South Scotland Next Generation Broadband ( pdf file size 166 Kb )
The Networking Company ( pdf file size 885 Kb )
Third Sector First Broadband ( pdf file size 505 Kb )
White Space ( pdf file size 2.25 Mb)
Community Presentation ( pdf file size 762 Kb )
Tegola & HUBS Projects ( pdf file size 2.42 Mb)
Cybermoor ( pdf file size 656 Kb)
Carnegie UK Trust ( pdf file size 1.04 Mb)
Legal Structures & Finance ( pdf file size 446 Kb)
SUP - South of Scotland Next Generation Broadband - part 1 ( pdf file size 967 Kb )
SUP - South of Scotland Next Generation Broadband - part 2 ( pdf file size 837 Kb )