With complaints about broadband continuing to grow, it’s disappointing to learn that community led efforts to provide fast broadband to rural areas in Berwickhire have been unsuccessful, but not for lack of trying. Five Berwickshire Community Councils (CCs) asked the Scottish Government for help in 2015. After surveys to see who wanted faster broadband, a grant of over £800k was approved in August 2017.
Whilst these community efforts were ongoing, the Government announced plans in 2016 (known as the R100 programme), to bring superfast broadband to everyone in Scotland by 2021. Of course this is great news as it means that community efforts are no longer needed at this stage. However everyone recognises that some rural properties will be too hard to reach and will be left out of R100. These are the properties where community projects may still have a role and be able to plug the gaps. However, community projects need a government assisted fall-back position to help them reach these isolated properties.
Following discussions with R100 staff, it became clear that R100 can’t guarantee to act as the ‘safety net’ if community projects are unsuccessful, and several have failed. Mainly for this reason, the Berwickshire project decided to opt for R100.
Community projects may resurface when details of areas not covered by R100 are eventually known sometime between 2019 and 2021. Until then the waiting and uncertainty continues.
It is of some comfort to know that, depending on location, superfast broadband is already available in the GFPCC area, and across the Merse towards Berwick upon Tweed. The service has been ongoing for over six years, and is supplied by Briskona, a Scottish based company with over 340 customers in Berwickshire (over 1,000 in Scotland).
More detailed information on the above activities is available here.