New hope for faster broadband

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A community project to provide faster broadband to Berwickshire has been suspended three months after being awarded an £800,000 grant.

Keith Dickinson, chair of Gavinton, Fogo & Polwarth Community Council explained that five Berwickshire community councils asked the Scottish Government for help in 2015, but while this community effort was going on the Government announced a new scheme (R100) 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,” said Keith.

“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.

“Community projects need a government-assisted fall-back position to help them reach 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.”

And it was for this reason that those who have been working on the Berwickshire project decided to opt for R100; with the proviso that community projects may resurface once it is known which areas are not covered by R100.

When UK Government Minister of State for digital, Matt Hancock MP, visited the Borders last week he confirmed that they will work directly with local authorities in Scotland on the next generation of superfast broadband technology.

Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley said: “The lack of decent broadband in some areas is holding the region back.

“Having been at the back of the queue for the current Digital Scotland roll-out we want to see solutions delivered to rural areas quickly, so we welcome the Minister’s commitment to work directly with councils to deliver local solutions.”