No change on the BT front with BT saying they are planning to bring Superfast Broadband to the Borthwickbrae Exchange between July and December 2017. In response to the Ettrick and Beyond State Aid Public Consultation, BT didn’t object to state aid being given to areas covered by the Ettrick and Beyond project, which is a little confusing as if they were planning to bring Superfast Broadband, would they not want to rule out any competition ?! A mixed message !?
Our main hope remains with the Ettrick and Beyond Superfast Broadband project, which continues to gather pace. Here's the latest on that front :-
Callum Hay (Acting Project Chairman) has designed an organisation structure adding a more formal Project Board and Project Team to the existing Steering Group, as that will make decision-making more streamlined. The Steering Group will still decide the overall direction for the project. Feelers were put out to all communities to fill these new groups with volunteers. The teams have now been are being formed and the first Project Board meeting is to be held at the beginning of December with the potential for a larger meeting (with the Steering Group) before Christmas.
The initial aim will be to review all the information we’ve been gathering and agree how the project should be taken forward over the next 3 months to be able to decide our best option by around March 2017. We expect to have 3 broad choices:
- raise funding ourselves and build a “volunteer” network (very ambitious, but not impossible);
- wait for the national “R100” programme to do the job for us (although what level of service we’ll get, and when we’d get it are still unknown);
- or take the bull by the horns and start work now with Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) to deliver a local solution to an agreed specification in the next 2 years or so.
CBS can bring a contribution of £1M+ to the project, which is a compelling reason for choosing that route.
However, all the options have pros and cons, and all have risks so we need to take our time and choose very carefully
Meantime there’s a lot to do to get properly organised: we want to form an agreed brand/name for the project moving forward, design a website to inform everyone about the project and start informal discussions with suppliers to get an idea what solutions will work for us. And, of course, to start getting funding in (from windfarms, lottery, LEADER, etc.etc...) to pay for a project manager and professional advice to make sure we pick the right solution.
At the same time, we will be visiting other projects who have been in our situation and now have Superfast Broadband through a community approach, to see how they did it, what pitfalls to look out for etc....etc....
In the informal discussions with suppliers, we are hoping to see what kind of technologies would work for our hilly terrain and how achievable it is with the approximately £1million set aside for our project (1300+ properties) by Community Broadband Scotland.
So, the ball is most definitely rolling. If we decide the Community Broadband Scotland solution is the best one for us, current estimates of timescales see us forming a company in the second quarter of 2017 and going out to tender that autumn with a view to starting the rollout early 2018 and enabling the first premises with Superfast Broadband (> 30Mbps) later that year. Of course, these are ballpark figures and may change.