By Steve McCaskill
The Scottish government has launched a £9 million fund for community broadband projects in the country and is inviting applications from projects that aim to connect remote areas not covered by commercial deployments of fiber.
The money available under the Scottish Rural Development Program (SRDP) will be distributed by Community Broadband Scotland (CBS).
CBS is a Scottish government initiative aimed at extending coverage beyond the 95 percent of premises set to be covered by the £410 million Digital Scotland project, part-funded by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK).
The venture recently provided £980,000 to the GigaPlus Argyll project, which will connect 1,400 homes and businesses in eight remote island and mainland communities to 50Mbps broadband, bringing anticipated economic benefits of £3.4 million.
First, Minister Nicola Sturgeon says the project provides an ideal blueprint for other communities wanting to take matters into their own hands.
"This SRDP funding will help communities in the hardest to reach broadband areas follow in the footsteps of the pioneering GigaPlus Argyll project, and work together to bring superfast services to homes and businesses," she said.
"This scheme takes the available funding for community broadband projects up to £16.5 million in Scotland, over and above the £400 million [Digital Scotland] investment. It is another step to achieving the Scottish Government's aim of delivering world class connectivity by 2020 and, enabling people across Scotland to connect any time, any place, anywhere, using any device."
In total, 394,000 Scottish premises have been added to the Openreach fiber network as a direct result of BDUK, contributing to a U.K.-wide figure of more than three million. Another 73,000 properties are set to be added in the next phase, including a number of communities around the famous Loch Ness.
Scotland is one of the areas set to benefit from a pot of £129 million that BT will return to local authorities after adoption predictions exceeded those stated in BT's original business case for the government funding. In total, £17.8 million will be returned to Digital Scotland, which can be reinvested in accelerating or expanding coverage. Digital Scotland is targeting 95 percent coverage by 2018.