A HARD-hitting manifesto and broadband working party report was unveiled today (September 8) by Scottish Rural Action (SRA).
The working party report urges the Scottish Government to redirect resources to ensure the speedy establishment of the infrastructure required to allow Internet service providers to establish connectivity by methods which could include State-funded projects.
Amanda Burgauer, Chair of SRA, said: “This report highlights some of the serious failings of the current system to deliver superfast broadband to rural communities. The mechanisms intended to support communities are preventing, not enabling, progress. This report has been collated by our working group consisting of more than 30 individuals and community groups, who are all working hard on a voluntary basis to deliver this essential service to their locality. They feel strongly that the systems need to change if we are ever going to see equity between rural and urban communities and delivery of the Scottish Government’s commitment to superfast broadband to 100% of premises in Scotland.”
The proposals will be debated at the Scottish Rural Parliament which meets in Brechin from October 6-8.
The SRA Broadband Working Group recommendations are:
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 per cent 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 per cent, 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.
The full Manifesto can be viewed by going to www.scottishruralparliament.org.uk/manifesto
The Broadband working group report can be viewed by going to www.scottishruralparliament.org.uk/broadband