With nearly a dozen properties now connected, and the work to reach other sectors of the glen well under way, it’s finally time to ‘officially’ launch our network to the world at large. So here’s our press release announcing the fact, coinciding with a small ceremony that took place today, in the presence of those who’ve supported us practically and politically, and those who can learn from the example that we and other communities have set.
Remote Scottish community tops UK broadband with 1Gbps speeds
Local Balquhidder community achieves hyper-fast broadband, digging trenches and using council funds to build its own infrastructure and reach the fastest speeds in Britain.
An ambitious local community in a remote Scottish glen has been praised for significantly boosting its broadband, joining a small fraction of properties in the UK able to reach speeds of 1Gbps.
Working in partnership with Stirling Council and internet service provider (ISP) Bogons, community interest company Balquhidder Community Broadband (BCB), will deliver hyper-fast, future proof and community owned broadband to all 197 premises in the Balquhidder area.
In what is believed to be a unique project in Scotland – delivering such high speeds through a community owned network, to such a small population – the project has involved local volunteers digging trenches and laying fibre cable across the rural landscape.
Funded in part by an initial £100,000 investment from Stirling Council along with a similar investment from its commercial partner, and rural development funding from the Scottish LEADER programme, the BCB project is expected to bring millions of pounds in economic gains to the area.
It will deliver internet connections hundreds of times faster than those previously available from mainstream internet service providers. This will boost the local economy, improving jobs, diversity and resilience. Property prices are expected to rise, and residents and businesses will be able to better access commercial and public services online.
Speaking at a public launch, David Johnston, a director at BCB, said: “This project is hugely significant. Residential homes and businesses, some of which currently have no broadband, will be able to cancel existing poor copper to the premise broadband and line rental contracts and enjoy ‘world class’ service, for less than most are currently paying.
“This has been a genuine collaboration between local businesses, local government and local people and our commercial partner Bogons, to lay the foundations for broadband connectivity in Balquhidder on a par with the rest of the world.”
Brandon Butterworth, a director of Bogons Limited, said: “Balquhidder is our first local project of this nature. Since our work with BCB started we have also now taken on wireless internet service provider provision for neighbouring Loch Tay. We are looking to help other communities where the community is willing to do the digging and other works for us to install fibre. A DIY dig saves the community a significant part of the install cost where any fibre, even fibre to the cabinet, has not previously been available.”
Stirling Council’s finance and economy chair councillor Margaret Brisley said: “Access to high speed broadband and connectivity is a major issue for communities in rural Stirling, impacting on economic growth and access to services. The Balquhidder Community Broadband Project is an excellent example of a community providing a solution to this challenge, supported by Stirling Council and private sector partners. The council recognises the leadership and commitment shown by the community and is delighted to work in partnership to deliver this project. Providing world class broadband connectivity to Balquhidder will be transformational, enabling and supporting the economic growth of the area whilst giving the community full access to services.”
Councillor Jeremy McDonald, broadband delivery chair at Stirling Council, added: “I am genuinely excited about the launch of this community broadband project that has been a collaboration between a dedicated group of community volunteers, private enterprise and the local authority. This impressive project shows what can be done to ensure our remotest communities can compete in the digital world.”
Local businesses include the Mhor Group – which locally operates restaurants and a hotel. Owner and chef Tom Lewis, said: “This broadband scheme is vital to the development of our businesses. The markets we target expect and demand a good internet connection. Our current satellite feed is really expensive and only lets us provide limited email services to our customers which has had a negative impact in our corporate conference business. It will be transformational once we are connected and finally allow us to manage our businesses in Balquhidder, Callander and Glasgow from our home in Balquhidder.”
BCB director and project founder Richard Harris is a technology industry entrepreneur at Two Worlds, who works around the world from his base in Balquhidder. He said: “Balquhidder, like much of rural Scotland, offers a high quality of life in an active community in stunning surroundings. And, like all those areas, it’s economic development and resilience have been crippled by the lack of effective communications. I’ve spent eleven years in efforts that have led to this project, during which time I’ve twice had to move growing companies out of Scotland because of poor communications. I now run an international AI and augmented reality company, for which a reliable, high-speed internet connection is vital. Without this network we would soon have had to move out of the area altogether. With it, we can now do the opposite: start to attract more skilled individuals and other companies into the area.”
Mark Venables, also a director at BCB, as well as being chief executive of Highland Marketing, which was founded in the glen, said: “This project shows just what can be achieved in a local community, and could provide a model for other parts of the country to boost rural areas. As a business, we work with technology vendors across the globe, who rely on us for content that requires bandwidth. This new service will allow us to end our reliance on costly satellite broadband and ensure that staff working in our Scotland office can continue to support clients into the future, just as easily as those working in our London office and other parts of the UK.”
By working in partnership with internet service provider Bogons, which is turning the old nuclear bunker at nearby Cultybraggan into a major data centre, BCB has been able to keep construction costs of the local fibre network to a level about half of a commercial build. By delivering fibre to the premise (FTTP) it has also been able to ensure that the service can be easily upgraded in the future at minimal cost.
Notes to editors
Number of premises able to receive 1Gbps connections
The UK government said in March 2018 that around 3% of UK premises have access to full fibre broadband connections. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/67-million-boost-for-a-full-fibre-future As only some of these connections deliver 1Gbps, the number premises able to access 1Gbps is believed to be fewer than 3%.
About Balquhidder Community Broadband CIC
Balquhidder Community Broadband CIC has been set up as a community interest company in order to provide the community of Balquhidder with a future proof and upgradable full fibre broadband service on a par with anywhere else in the world. It was established in 2015 and has been working in partnership with Bogons Limited since then to make this 1Gbps FTTP project happen. It believes that delivering broadband in this way will be transformational for the whole Balquhidder community, now and long into the future.
About Bogons Limited
Bogons is a boutique infrastructure ISP building a datacentre at Comrie and is looking at improving broadband in the area.
About Stirling Council
Stirling Council serves 93,750 residents and a thriving business community in an area stretching from the scenic Campsie Fells to Stirling’s vibrant city centre and the imposing Trossachs Mountains. Located within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, the area features breath-taking scenery and some of Scotland’s top visitor attractions including the Castle and Wallace Monument which are testimony to Stirling fascinating past. Our vision is to deliver more agile and responsive services and work with our employees, partners and communities for the benefit of all. The council is committed to building on Stirling’s strong reputation as a business and investment location by positioning the area as an economic and cultural powerhouse.
About Mhor Group
The Mhor Group is a collection of boutique, stylish, rural places to stay, eat and make merry – all with a dash of pizzazz in Scotland and France. It includes the renowned Monachyle Mhor Hotel, the award winning Mhor 84 restaurant and motel, Mhor Bread, Mhor Fish, Mhor to your Door mobile restaurant and Mhor in France self-catering cottage.
About Two Worlds
Two Worlds is a R&D consultancy supporting leading edge technology and service developers. The provision of this new network will now enable it to bring a leading-edge technology development centre to Balquhidder.
About Highland Marketing
Highland Marketing develops and delivers targeted, high impact PR, marketing and communications programmes specifically to help organisations in the healthcare and technology sector. With a well proven and demonstrable track record of working with a range of clients since 2002, we have detailed, specialist knowledge of the healthcare marketplace. The company was founded in Balquhidder and has offices in London with teams working across the UK for clients across the world.
Matthew D’Arcy, Highland Marketing on behalf of BCB
+44 (0)1877 339922
+44 (0)7551 171571