What do you plan to do ?

At the time of writing (December 2016) we have three broad options :-

  • We could try and raise funds and build our own system. This might sound impossibly ambitious, but it’s already been done elsewhere in the UK – there’s a link to the B4RN project (Broadband for the Rural North) later in this document. B4RN have created the fastest rural broadband network anywhere in the world – and it’s nearly all been done by some very dedicated and talented volunteers.
  • We could wait and see if we can be included in the Scottish Governments “Reaching 100%” programme (R100). This aims to reach all the remaining properties in Scotland that aren’t going to be served by commercial broadband providers (like BT) or planned community broadband projects. It will be a very big programme with as many as 300,000 properties in the project scope, spread across the whole of rural Scotland. There’s a political commitment for the service to be ready by 2021. We don’t know yet what service would be on offer, or where we would be in the queue if we decided to “join up”.
  • We could develop our own community superfast broadband network, supported by a £1M funding package provided through Community Broadband Scotland (CBS). If we want, the network could become a community-owned asset. This option would give us a lot of control, but might also mean having to set up a community company to own the network, and oversee operation. (There’s a variation on this option where the system supplier would own the network)

 

There may be a fourth option which would involve working with mobile telephone operators, to see if we can piggy-back on their investments in improved coverage and new 4G services so that together we can create a shared solution. This is only speculative at the moment, and needs further investigation.

Which option is best ?

We don’t know yet.

All of these options have positive and negative aspects, and all of them have “unknowns” that can’t be resolved without more detailed work. None of them are risk-free. Choosing between them will be difficult. Until recently, the CBS option (the third one in the list above) looked like the only realistic way forward, and a lot of work has been done by the project team with CBS to develop that option. It’s more or less “ready to go” to formal procurement (writing the contract, and inviting bids) whenever we’re ready. However, we think we should explore the alternatives before making any commitment: would a B4RN-like option work here?, or would R100 be better?. This work is likely to take until March 2017.

Meantime, we have sought advice. Everyone’s consistent, saying we should stick with the CBS solution, unless something which is definitely feasible and much better comes along. So that’s what we plan to do.