Ef­forts to boost in­ter­net ac­cess

Coun­cil­lor to head de­liv­ery group

Stirling Observer - - PRIMARY ONES - John Row­botham

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

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