Digital and broadband

Review of community broadband delivery under way

The role played by a government-funded initiative to deliver broadband to Scotland’s most hard-to-reach communities is the focus of a new review commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The development agency has engaged independent consultants ekosgen to review the activities of Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) since it was established as a pilot project five years ago.

They are reviewing a range of innovations that CBS has considered to improve its delivery, and exploring whether there is a case to develop these further. 

In addition, they will hear from stakeholders on how CBS could optimise its contribution to the Scottish Government’s R100 programme to connect 100% of premises by 2021.  

Set up by the Scottish Government in 2012 and managed by HIE, CBS works with communities across the country that are in the most challenging locations for next generation broadband delivery.  

CBS Director Zoe Laird says the review will help the organisation shape its future plans in line with the needs and expectations of rural communities across the country. 

“Every community in Scotland wants fast and reliable broadband, and we want them to be able to get it,” said Zoe.  “That’s the bottom line.” 

“But the challenges can be really daunting.  Geography is often a major obstacle.  Distance is another.  And the technical solution that works best in one location won’t necessarily be the right fit somewhere else.

“We have also found it extremely difficult in some cases to engage commercial companies as suppliers who will share our ambition, and be willing to take these projects on.

”With five years’ experience, and with further large-scale investment in broadband infrastructure planned by the Scottish Government as part of their Reaching 100% programme, we believe this is the right time to take stock, rigorously examine what’s been achieved, and apply the lessons we can learn to benefit communities across the country.”

To date, CBS has supported 14 communities to set up and manage their own broadband projects.  It is currently working with a further 15.

The Scottish Government has committed to delivering 100% superfast broadband access by 2021.  This is known as the Reaching 100% (R100) programme.  New procurement activity will launch later this year to deliver further investment, focused on bringing superfast broadband to the hardest to reach premises – those that won’t benefit from existing publicly funded initiatives or via commercial rollout. 

The CBS review is currently under way and is expected to conclude by the autumn.

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