Scottish Rural Action’s Broadband Working Group report calls for a Scottish Broadband Conference – bringing together all stakeholders, including the Scottish Government, community projects, network providers and suppliers, to resolve delays in broadband roll-out and share views and solutions.
Download full SRA Broadband Report
Other recommendations include:
1. The Scottish Government should redirect resources to quickly facilitate the provision of community/national backhaul, local backbone networks and community hubs to support access networks. This will prime the pump for Internet Service Providers to provide connectivity either commercially or through community projects, possibly including State Aid funded projects.
2. The Scottish Government, having made the commitment to reach 100% super-fast coverage, should accept that this is a stepping stone to ultra-fast speeds and ensure that there are clear upgrade paths available to all rural networks.
3. Rural communities should be supported through access to specialist advice according to their needs. This might include business planning, technical advice, help with funding, legal guidance regarding way leaves and other support. There needs to be a mechanism for accessing this support and sharing knowledge amongst community projects in a collaborative way, and not through the current Community Broadband Scotland approach, which has blocked many projects rather than facilitate them.
4. Existing rural broadband and rural initiatives and resources should be coordinated to best respond to rural broadband requirements and overcome obstacles that currently impede rural broadband deployment. These should be addressed and managed by the team responsible for reaching 100%, as a singly managed project, with clear accountability for delivery.
5. There should be a Scottish Broadband Conference, using an Open Space type of facilitation, that brings together all stakeholders, including Scottish Government, community projects, network providers and suppliers, to evaluate the status quo and share views and solutions.
Official Response from Scottish Government
“The Scottish Government welcomes the Broadband Report produced by Scottish Rural Action and will look to build on the constructive conversations that took place during the recent Scottish Rural Parliament in Brechin. The Scottish Government is committed to extending superfast broadband access to every premise in Scotland by 2021 and will launch new procurement activity later this year to deliver new public investment in Scotland’s digital infrastructure. We will consult on an Intervention Area for this new programme in the coming weeks.
Aside from extending access to superfast broadband, the programme will aim to enhance backhaul capacity in rural Scotland and ensure that any new infrastructure is future-proofed and easily accessible for as many users as possible, whether Internet Service Providers, Mobile Network Operators or community projects.
The prospect of new larger scale procurements has implications for some of our other initiatives, notably Community Broadband Scotland. CBS has played a valuable role in recent years, working with communities across Scotland and funding a number of successful community-led broadband projects. The CBS approach is likely to evolve in the months ahead; to refocus on delivering tailored support to communities who want to run their own networks. A key part of this will be determining opportunities for community networks to collaborate and generate economies of scale that enhance their sustainability.
We are keen to continue engagement with Scottish Rural Action on the issues outlined in the report and to seek input from a range of interests as our delivery approach takes shape. A broadband conference later in the year would provide a real opportunity to test some of these principles and review progress to date.”
Head of Digital Connectivity Policy
Connectivity, Economy & Data Division / Scottish Government