The Scottish Government’s major new investment in providing rural communities with access to improved broadband services is hugely welcome.
The benefits that broadband can bring to rural communities through improved local services and improved business opportunities are well documented, and access to high-speed digital connectivity is now an essential service.
While the announcement is welcome, it is of course only the start of an ambitious infrastructure project and there remains much work to do.
It is particularly important that the 5 per cent of households not covered by the new investment receive alternative support to help them achieve high-speed broadband access.
Without access, these remote rural communities will not be able to fulfil their economic and social potential and will fall into a “two-speed” society.
The solution, at least in part, is to support rural community enterprise initiatives to fill the gaps left by the market and government programmes and we are pleased to be part of the advisory group for the Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) initiative, which has been set up to provide exactly this type of support.
Innovative projects, such as those in Elvanfoot or Applecross, which are being supported by CBS, demonstrate that community enterprises can deliver effective solutions in remote rural areas.
These community schemes also help because they encourage people who would otherwise not adopt the technology to participate.
As we know from our research in Glasgow, building the infrastructure is only half the battle when it comes to getting people online.
With continued support from local and Scottish Government, as well as the telecommunications industry and local people, we believe that the most remote rural communities can find solutions to ensure that all are digitally connected.
Carnegie UK Trust