July 26, 2017
Access to superfast broadband is something that – if you live in a city – most folk take for granted. But you don’t have to stray too far from the city limits before those speeds start to drop and there are still too many parts of rural Scotland where little has changed since the time Tim Berners-Lee wondered what would happen if computers were joined together. Despite the promise of nationwide digital roll out, many communities have been left to come up with their own solutions – albeit often with remarkable success.
Scotland’s largest community broadband network, which was developed by local people to bring better connections to some of Lochaber’s hardest to reach broadband spots, is expanding.
Locheilnet Community Interest Company was created by a group of volunteers in 2012. Their aim was to develop a fast, reliable wireless broadband service for areas around Loch Eil, Treslaig, and further north at Clunes and Achnacarry.
The successful project has expanded in recent years and currently provides a wireless internet service to many outlying areas of Fort William; it reaches from Glenfinnan in the west, Kentallen in the south, to as far north as South Laggan.
Locheilnet has almost 400 customers on the network who are able to access download speeds of more than 20Mbps.
Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), a Scottish Government initiative delivered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), is supporting the group’s expansion with a second round of funding to help them upgrade and extend their core infrastructure.
The £42,000 award will mean Locheilnet can upgrade its core network, including new masts at Treslaig and Tulloch. The investment will see increased capacity for the existing network and the opportunity to expand. This includes the delivery of superfast broadband to Kilmalieu, and also at Tulloch, near Roy Bridge.
Jackie Wright, Chair of Locheilnet, said: “This is really great news. We already provide a robust, fast broadband service to almost 400 rural householders and businesses. This funding will allow us to serve some of our even more remote areas. We’re hoping that during the summer we will have statutory permissions in place and start work on getting the infrastructure built. I’d particularly like to thank people in the community who have helped to plan the project, and also to the landowners in each area who are very supportive.”
Calum Stiven at CBS commented: “Locheilnet, which is a not for profit group, was set up by people who knew first-hand the difficulties of living with poor broadband speeds. They are a leading example of what a community can achieve for themselves and others. We’re delighted that this investment will support them to expand, bringing the benefits of better broadband to more people in the Lochaber area.”