Efforts to boost internet access
Councillor to head delivery group
A Trossachs and Teith councillor is to head a body whose aim is to improve broadband coverage across rural Stirlingshire.
Jeremy McDonald succeeds council colleague Neil Benny as chairman of the area’s broadband delivery group which was set up four years ago.
It draws membership from community representatives who, with their knowledge of the area, seek to direct Stirling Council on how best to use its resources to improve the poor or in some cases non-existent internet access in rural communities.
Group members hold regular meetings and are supported by Stirling Council’s broadband delivery officer, Douglas Baillie.
He took on the job after the group identified the post as a priority to help focus the council’s efforts.
Representatives of Community Broadband Scotland, Digital Scotland, Scottish Government, BT and other suppliers regularly attend the group’s meetings.
Advice is offered on where around £300,000 a year should be spent to improve broadband access.
Councillor McDonald said: “We are all very aware of how vitally important a good broadband and mobile connection is for our rural economy.
“The knowledge and commitment of the community representatives on the group will be crucial in ensuring that the administration at the council is focussed on this as a priority for investment and that the various Government initiatives actually, finally deliver effective solutions for our communities.
“We must also continue to support community projects that are delivering future proof technologies to some of our remotest areas.”
David Johnstone of Balquhidder Community Broadband Project said: “This group is a really important forum and has been doing exactly what the council should do, using the expertise of people in the communities to inform their approach to this issue. I look forward to it continuing to provide the scrutiny and advice needed to keep this problem at the top of the council’s agenda.”
In 2013 Stirling Council dedicated £600,000 of extra funding to inject into the BDUK/Digital Scotland programme of Fibre to Cabinet works across the council area.
Councillor McDonald said this cash injection increased the original scope of the project and saw more properties connected than otherwise would have been.
He added: “Although the programme ends in March next year, under the terms of the contract, there will be extra money allocated due to BT having to pay money back in to the programme when take-up exceeds 20 per cent in connected areas.
“This ‘Gainshare’ funding will be used to connect additional areas during the rest of 2018. The BDG will need to see what areas are proposed to benefit from this extra investment and will expect to have a meaningful role in agreeing this and directing council funding to targeted areas to bolster the programme.”
Group members will also be scrutinising progress on the Scottish Government’s R100 scheme which seeks to connect all remaining areas to superfast broadband by 2021.
Scrutiny Councillor McDonald