LISTEN: Ian Bailey gives an update on the R100 Broadband project
Announcing the next steps of Scotland’s ambitious plans to connect the rural communities of the country up with broadband now reveals what sort of service locals can expect.
The £579m R100 Broadband connection is expected to exclude a number of towns and villages across Highland Perthshire.
Highland Perthshire Communities Partnership’s project officer, Ian Bailey, explained: “Because the contract appears to have been awarded on a best-efforts basis, there doesn’t appear opt be any legal commitment from any party to insist that every property in the northern area that was assessed as needing better broadband will be included.
“So the current situation is BT looks although it is now given a provisional update as to which properties it will include.
“And that for large areas of Highland Perthshire, there are still a significant number of properties which will not be included in R100; which after five years is pretty disappointing.”
Delivering the ‘superfast broadband’ is planned to be done with an approach known as fibre to the premises (FTTP) for the majority of households who will be covered.
This is faster than fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) which delivers a fibre cable to an exchange where cables which deliver less bandwidth, for instance copper, meet up with the faster fibre lines.
However, with communities like Strathtay, Glen Lyon and Kinloch Rannoch virtually excluded from the upgrade, they have the opportunity to use vouchers to make up for missing out.
This comes through the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme which offers £5,000 to the homes who will be missed out and £400 for homes who won’t be connected by the end of 2021.
Scotland’s Connectivity Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “Digital Connectivity has played a vital role in supporting our efforts to keep people safe during the Covid-19 lockdown and will be pivotal in plans for our strategic economic recovery from the pandemic.
Adding: “But Scotland has some of the most challenging locations anywhere in Europe for providing telecoms infrastructure and I have always been clear that additional measures may still be needed to provide superfast access to some of the hardest-to-reach areas.
“That is why we have been developing plans in parallel with the main infrastructure investment to ensure our 100% commitment is met, and the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme offering a level of funding far exceeding that of any other broadband voucher scheme currently in operation within the UK, will ensure that everyone can access and benefit from this world-leading digital capability.”
The voucher scheme then gives locals the chance to try and connect up to the upgrade by their own means using some suggestions from the Scottish Government.
Mr Bailey added: “Now, what the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme enables is, property owners with that voucher then are given an opportunity to look for alternative suppliers.
“So the Scottish Governments created a list of potential companies who would offer a potential broadband service, it could be fibre, it could be wireless network or it could be something else.
“The challenge is if you’ve been excluded from the BT contract, it’s highly likely that it’s going to cost a lot more than five thousand pounds to get a broadband service to you as an individual broadband provider.”
For Mr Bailey, the answer for home owners to get their internet delivered to them is to and together and use these vouchers to find the solution.
He added: “These smaller communities have to come together to aggerate their vouchers.
“And that really is the only way of basically bringing a high speed broadband service collectively.”