TECHNOLOGY experts have warned that policy makers must urgently initiate further community broadband schemes – following a new report that claims rural societies are at risk of a dramatic decline.
A study by The National Housing Federation has found that family life in rural areas is under threat as youngsters leave for work and university and fail to return, while entrepreneurs are unlikely to start business in areas with poor connectivity.
Scottish telecoms firm, Commsworld, is now urging support for the proven success of community broadband schemes to help rectify the problem and help stop large swaths of the country stagnating.
Such groups have already had a positive, albeit local, impact across many corners of Scotland, born out of frustration felt by those suffering from poor network speeds.
Ricky Nicol, Chief Executive of Commsworld, said: “Community broadband schemes have been the real – as yet unsung – success story of connectivity in rural Scotland.
“Suddenly you have small villages and towns getting access to faster network speeds than the best possible big operator speeds in city centres as a result of these community groups.
“It’s a fantastic result for people power and rural Scotland more generally, especially with the threat of families and businesses upping and leaving.
“That being said, it is very local – we have to see much more of this activity on both sides if we are to avoid modern day highland clearances, enforced by a lack of appropriate infrastructure, but things are starting to look much brighter.”
The physical aspects of that infrastructure are already in place while a stark commercial view has made many providers reluctant to utilise fibre already in the ground.
For instance, many telephone exchanges have fibre brought to them which offers broadband companies the opportunity to reach out to more rural settlements.
This means that these areas, with the right support and community-led collaboration could potentially start to take advantage of some of the fastest speeds in the UK.
This could help stem the tide of decreasing population size in rural areas which is also linked to an increase in the average age in these places, as highlighted in the National Housing Federation report.
Ricky added: “The main ‘motorway’ has existed for some time and now, thanks to other telecoms infrastructure, all the A and B roads are in place too.
“There has been a lack of interest from larger providers to take advantage of this to ensure that more homes and businesses are connected to this network – partly due to lower profit margins.
“We are committed to helping community broadband projects fulfil the amazing potential beneath our feet and have already lent a hand in places like Ullapool, Mallaig Peterhead and Kingussie and the Borders.”
“Kingussie, for instance, has only 400 homes, meaning companies the size of some of our competitors can struggle to meet what they consider is an acceptable margin.
“For Commsworld, we are always happy to help to the best of our abilities and it can help us expand our overall network – something that is good for the consumer and business.”
Commsworld is an Edinburgh headquartered firm, with offices in Glasgow and Aberdeen and more than 70 staff.
Founded in 1994, it supports thousands of the country’s leading organisations, in both the Public and Private Sectors, with their business-critical Internet, Data and Voice Communications.
It is Scotland’s largest Indigenous Next Generation Network Operator & internet service provider (ISP), has delivered major networks in Glasgow and Aberdeen and is the lead partner in CityFibre’s Edinburgh Gigabit City network.
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