Better news: Balquhidder Broadband

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.

Our position throughout has been that:

  • Any long-term solution for Balquhidder MUST include provision of a fibre (at least Fibre to the Cabinet, aka FTTC) access point in the Glen, however this was provided.
  • Local service provision can then be via a combination of existing copper lines (for those properties in range), readily upgradeable wireless connections (for the rest) and any local fibre provision that we may care to make as a community.
  • That we don’t commit to a service whose capital cost is covered by public money but which then leaves us with unsustainable service costs in the future.

At a meeting with Shaun Marley of CBS last Friday, he was able to reassure me that:

  • Anything we did now that did not provide a full and future-proof solution would not prevent us from being considered for a subsequent rollout of public fibre services by BT, although the knowledge that we had a local solution in place might change priority for rollout (either way).
  • CBS would be able consider funding the private provision of a BT fibre cabinet and infrastructure to the Glen. We’re now looking into this and at the technological possibilities for the rest of the service.

Whatever we end up with, we will need to have it accountable to a community-based body: typically with representatives from the community being served, the Community Council and (I imagine) the Community Trust. The commitment threshold appears to be about 89% public funding, with the remainder to be accounted either locally or in agreement with the selected service provider (in other areas, the 11% balance has been covered by the chosen service provider).

Next steps then are:

  • To organise some community-level planning.
  • Working with CBS to create an initial tender document, against which potential providers can quote (this is already under way)
    To cost (with potential providers) both local access provision and backhaul (the pipe to the outside world).
  • To update the list of properties and potential users in the Balquhidder area.
  • To provide CBS with a map of our intended coverage area (already done). This currently includes Balquhidder Station and anywhere else we think may be out of range of the Strathyre or Lochearnhead services – this will be amended and refined as we move forwards.

I will be updating information here to reflect where we are at any given time.

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