A fund of £5 million value may sound very small, but assuming it is not wasted on consultancy fees, this amount can make a big difference to the smallest and most remote communities in Scotland. The new Community Broadband Scotland Initiative has been announced by the Scottish Government, with the aim to get better services into those areas that will miss out through the larger partnerships that should push better broadband to most of Scotland by 2015, with the ongoing target that by 2020 these services of 30 Mbps and faster will be available to all.
The initiative was launched in Elvanfoot (South Lanarkshire), which is a small community located just to the west of the A74(M), and is over three miles from the nearest telephone exchange. The Elvanfoot Development Group which is a local group, is aiming to do a full fibre deployment (FTTH) for homes and businesses in the community. As such it is likely to receive funding from the initial round where £1m is available, the projects in this pioneer phase will then be used as case studies to help other communities more forward on their projects.
The Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) that is the £20m fund for helping community solutions in the UK, serves a very similar purpose, but has come in for lots of criticism over how its funding system works. It will be interesting to see how things work out for the Scottish scheme, Scotland is well versed in spending money to bring broadband to communities, back in 2005 a fair amount of money was spent via an open tender to bring 1st generation broadband to every community in Scotland and the Highlands and Islands has had projects running for sometime to improve connectivity.