TGDT were chosen as one of the six pioneer communities for the Community Broadband Scotland programme at the end of 2012. This allows the community to develop a community led broadband solution for properties that will not benefit from the Step Change programme that will see properties throughout Scotland benefit from superfast broadband by 2020.
The Development Trust undertook a survey of all properties within the AB37 9 postcode area in December 2012 and approximately 20% of households responded to this. From this data it was apparent that three key areas within the community received under 2Mbps download speed on a continual basis; Braes of Glenlivet, Strath Avon and Morinsh.
Once the pilot areas were identified a consultant was then appointed to undertake a technical options appraisal for the project. Monatech Broadband who successfully delivered and operate the Laggan Broadband project presented a proposal from taking the backhaul from both Grantown and Glenlivet then using the Cromdale hills as a relay point to bounce the signal to five other masts within the area. The masts for this system would be situated at Deskie Hill, The Bochel, Tom Trumper, Cnoc Lochy, Carn a’Ghille Chearr and Creagan a’Chaise.
TGDT then developed 3 package plans for customers; Basic, Enhanced and Business. To date we have had 75 individual households register their interest in being connected to the scheme.
As a board we are committed to progressing the roll out of Broadband within the community and are working hard to achieve this for you. Since our last update, the project has encountered a couple of delays, however, we hope that you will understand the reasons for having to change the direction of the project to allow the Trust and community to achieve as much as possible over the next 3 years.
As you may be aware, the Community Broadband Scotland funding is classified as State Aid and is subject to the De Minimis regulations, which state that any one body cannot receive over €200,000 of De Minimis funding in a rolling 3 year period. State aid is a European Union Treaty term which refers to forms of public funding, which has the potential to distort competition. €200,000 equates to around £165,883 and as the Development Trust has already received £13,542 and the CBS funding would total £138,607 this would leave less than £15,000 De Minimis classified funding for the Trust to access over the next 3 years. This puts us in a very difficult situation given the number of other projects we are looking to deliver and secure funding for over the next 3 years.
CBS have been in discussions with Broadband Development UK (BDUK) about submitting community broadband projects applying for CBS funding to the BDUK scheme for state aid approval. As this is an approved state aid scheme, this would not have any implications on our De Minimis funding allocation. To submit an application to the BDUK scheme the project requires to be a larger scale broadband initiative and it is therefore proposed that those communities within the National Park that are currently working with CBS to progress community broadband projects submit a joint application to BDUK for state aid approval.
The benefits of an aggregated project of this kind are larger number of customers meaning a more robust business, greater buying power through economies of scale and greater product choice for the customers. As a larger project with more subscribers it will also be possible to develop more robust maintenance and support services, which will not be as reliant on volunteers as the smaller community projects would be.
It is important to note that CBS funding (whether classified as De Minimis or BDUK state aid approved) cannot be used for areas that are likely to benefit from the Step Change fibre rollout. CBS are therefore working very closely with their colleagues in the Step Change team within HIE and BT to define the boundaries of both projects.
Once the areas of the project are defined this will then be publicised online for a period of one month before the procurement process can begin, we would therefore hope to have a contractor secured to finalise the scheme design and installation of masts by the end of April and have the build and connections rolled out on a phased approach from June onwards.
We appreciate that this is a significant delay and apologise for the inconvenience caused, however, we hope that the end product that we are able to deliver will meet all your expectations and provide an improved service to a greater number of households within the community.
Read the latest news on the Broadband project here.