New broadband cash

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A LACK of quality broadband access should soon be a thing of the past for residents in four Berwickshire communities thanks to a new batch of Government funding.

It’s long been a bone of contention for many in the area but now thanks to the Rural Broadband Challenge Fund, which was first launched on July 1, surfing the net should be a lot easier.

The funding is delivered through LEADER, part of the Scotland Rural Development Programme and the Scottish Borders LEADER Local Action Group will receive £294,075 to provide households and businesses in Cranshaws, Ellemford, Longformacus, Whitsome, Cardrona and Upper Ettrick with a reliable, high speed connection.

The Borders was one of only five successful groups out of 13 who submitted bids for funding and John Lamont, who has voiced his concern over a lack of quality broadband provision for Berwickshire on numerous occasions, said while there was still some way to go in improving matters for all the region’s computer users, the funding was a step in the right direction.

LEADER aims to increase the capacity of local rural community and business networks to build knowledge and skills and encourage innovation and co-operation to tackle local development objectives.

Local Action Groups are a partnership of representatives from the local council, the local enterprise company, rural businesses, public agencies and voluntary action and community groups.

Officers from Scottish Borders Council’s Economic Development team collaborated with a number of communities to assess the feasibility of upgrading bandwidths and four bids comprised the overall application to the Scottish Government.

Councillor Vicky Davidson, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Economic Development said that as well as making an immediate impact, the funding for the region should help raise its profile when it comes to further broadband improvements in the home.

She commented: “There is obviously an immediate benefit to the businesses in these areas, but the bid and the investment secured will also keep the Scottish Borders high on the rural broadband agenda, and maintain the case for far greater roll-out of high speed broadband and creating a competitive environment for business to flourish.”

Mark Rowley, chairman of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council said the investment was vital for those in outlying areas who relied on the internet for both personal and business use but up until now haven’t been able to access any broadband service at all.

He said: “Our previous chairman, Dave Lochhead, put an extremely robust case together for this and so we are absolutely delighted that after months of work championing the project, the funding for this scheme will now come through.

“We hope that this scheme will make a huge difference to many of the residents in the Lammermuirs, many of whom currently have no opportunity to access any broadband internet at all.

“It is particularaly important that this project should at last bring reliable broadband to many of the outlying farms, settlements and cottages that for so long have struggled with only dial-up or expensive and unreliable satellite and have been denied broadband. Lack of access to broadband has been a real hassle for the significant number of people in the Lammermuirs without it.

“With residents increasingly needing the internet to shop, work or access services or information it is vital that it is available to the whole community.

“We also hope that this will be a boost to a significant number of people who work from home or run businesses from the Lammermuirs and make it an even more attractive place for people to come to work, live or just visit.

“There will undoubtedly be much work involved in implementing this scheme and making sure that it delivers the best possible options for residents.”

Further information on the project will be posted on the community website as it becomes available.