On Friday 20th November we held the first public meeting for Balquhidder Community Broadband: we’ve been working away these past months to get costs, tenders and demand sorted out and now have at least the first steps towards effective, community-driven broadband for our area. And not before time. For any who missed the occasion, a video version of the presentation is on youtube:
Like many other rural Scottish communities, our problem is geography: having a fairly small but highly dispersed population strung out along the loch sides and side glens. Our core funding from Community Broadband Scotland will cover the capital expenditure and setup for our external connection and at least the bulk of our costs for our backbone within the glen, which is great. However, connecting the outlying clusters of properties (most of them farms) might be pushing the limits of available funding.
The Scottish Government makes a point in its goals for the Digital Scotland (DSSB) rollout that there will always be some areas for which provision of terrestrial broadband is impractical and that the fallback for those areas will include satellite-based broadband.
Unfortunately, there is a heavy dose of wishful thinking here: without direct public intervention, commercial operators cannot be guaranteed to provide a reliable and consistent service. This is borne out by experience in practice.
Our exercise of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot – bringing Gigabit-class fibre broadband to Balquhidder Glen at sustainable cost continues. However, another basic of twenty-teens life is coming to Balquhidder, this time after only moderate whinging from us locals.
We have now set up a community email list for all those interested in the rollout and progress of Balquhidder Community Broadband: please go here if you’re interested in receiving news or asking questions.
In light of the CBS funding for broadband provision to Balquhidder, we have now created a Community Interest Company (CIC) to contract, promote and support the local broadband service.
Our remit is to provide Balquhidder and those surrounding areas not addressed by Digital Scotland’s rollout with broadband, as a minimum meeting the OFCOM and EU definition of Superfast BroadBand (SFBB) of 30 Mbps, matching the declared goal of the Scottish Government for “World Class” broadband services and being ‘future-proof’ as needs and services change.
For further information, please contact us.
After the major, albeit long predicted, disappointments of BT’s failure to include Balquhidder in its rollout of fibre broadband and Digital Scotland’s refusal to recognise the deeply flawed nature of their contract with BT, we are now in the much happier position of being able to report that Community Broadband Scotland has accepted our case for capital funding for broadband provision to the Balquhidder area. There are several ways in which we can do this and we’re now working with CBS to put together an initial invitation to tender. Continue reading “Better news: Balquhidder Broadband” »
On 6 April 2015, I was interviewed by Eddie Mair on BBC Radio 4’s prime time news programme, PM, about the dire situation for local digital connectivity (broadband, mobile and TV). In short, it appears that due to poor contracting and contract management by Digital Scotland, the government body charged with implementation of the government’s commitment to rural broadband, many areas remain as complete broadband “not-spots”, with two publicly funded development projects which do not operate in a remotely joined up way and where the main project has been let to a private monopoly (BT) that is not being required to consider anything other than its normal commercial criteria for rollout. It is not, for instance, neither required to nor has demonstrated any interest in, working with the other public project, Community Broadband Scotland, to cost-effectively facilitate local community initiatives.
The end result of course is very poor value for money in both projects, a failure to meet, in the real-world, the original intent of these projects, as opposed to the ridiculous box-ticking exercises that are being used to justify the current approach.
The interview itself is here:
There are two publicly funded projects to improve the reach of superfast broadband in rural Scotland. There is the government’s Step Change 2015 programme (albeit recently renamed after they realised that the 2015 target just wasn’t going to happen). BT has been gifted more than £530M of public money (£100.8M in Scotland, plus a local top-up of about £670,000 from Stirling Council) for this contract. Then there’s Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), which exists to help remote communities get connected.
For weeks now, we’ve been seeing very poor subjective performance from Tooway’s satellite service. When measured, we’re seeing a large discrepancy between what Tooway’s own speed tester shows and what we get from decent speed checkers such as Speedof.me.