The Balquhidder area (including the adjacent villages of Strathyre and Lochearnhead) has, in common with much of rural Scotland, an antiquated and unreliable telecommunications infrastructure. This, plus an overall lack of capacity and the distance from the nearest exchange, means that much of the area cannot get modern (or frequently any) broadband provision, with no effective alternative for most homes and businesses. Even Strathyre, where the exchange is located, suffers from low throughput and a high level of unreliability.
This is a Market 1 area, with neither Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) services nor any third party to provide an alternative to the BT infrastructure. Previous initiatives to improve local broadband have been frustrated by both the lack of a coherent approach from the Scottish Government and by a historical lack of co-operation from BT, including a failure to release information required to inform community-driven initiatives.
Scottish Government policies now laudably aim at providing ‘next-generation’ broadband services by 2020, with ‘significant progress’ by 2015. For Balquhidder’s businesses and its community to develop and thrive, a critical enabler is access to such online services and for access to those services to be pervasive across the local geography. Local businesses are already incurring significant costs, having to forgo development opportunities or even move outwith the area altogether due to the poor quality of the local infrastructure.
As well as local progress with the costing, selection and provision of effective broadband services in and around Balquhidder, we are now engaging with two public enabling initiatives: Community Broadband Scotland and Step Change 2015 – the latter via Stirling Council. This initiative is supported by local businesses and Balquhidder’s Community Council.