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Pioneering Argyll Islands Community Broadband Project


Scottish Government (04/08/2015) - Eight island and mainland communities on Scotland’s dramatic west coastline have joined forces with Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) to develop a ground-breaking, community led, superfast broadband project.

Initially led by the Mull and Iona Community Trust, communities representing some of the hardest to reach broadband areas on Colonsay, Mull, Iona, Jura, Lismore, Islay, Luing and the peninsula of Craignish are working together to create community owned GigaPlus Argyll.

Following an open competitive procurement GigaPlus Argyll chose Lincoln based AB Internet Limited to work with the innovative community / private sector partnership.

With residents in many areas currently struggling with speeds below 2 Mbps, the project will deliver up to 50 Mbps, changing the way people live, work and learn across the GigaPlus Argyll area.

CBS has worked closely with and supported the community through the tender process and approved funding of £988k to support the roll-out of the community owned wireless network which will bring access to more than 1,400 homes and businesses.

The project will look to maximise coverage in these areas where the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband fibre project is unlikely to reach. CBS is a Scottish Government initiative, delivered across Scotland by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It supports people in the hardest to reach broadband areas to look at how community networks could help them get better connected.

Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay, said: “This is a pioneering project overcoming significant geographical, engineering and commercial challenges to bring superfast broadband to homes and businesses not only scattered across communities, but in this case, across islands.

“Every day we are building on the growing broadband infrastructure, reaching further into our rural and remote areas. Every forward step supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver first-rate connectivity in Scotland by 2020, ensuring we are a world class digital nation.”

GigaPlus Argyll Ltd (GPA) has procured and will manage the project which will be delivered in phases. It is likely that the south of Mull and Lismore will be connected first, followed by Luing and the northern end of Jura. From these key locations, the deployment will spread north-west across Mull, south through Colonsay, the Craignish Peninsula and parts of Jura, to the Loch Gruniart area to the west of Islay, and to Ulva and Iona with project completion expected in June 2016.

Moray Finch is Chairman of the newly formed GigaPlus Argyll and General Manager of the Mull and Iona Community Trust (MICT). MICT is involved in delivering a wide range of community services and projects and is supporting the GigaPlus project.

He commented: “Connections in all of these areas are poor, many with speeds less than 2 Mbps, and the project will deliver transformational change to island residents and businesses. To go from the superslow lane to being able to offer affordable broadband to meet the needs of homeowners as well as uncontended commercial connections for businesses will open up huge opportunities for us.”

An economic impact assessment for the project highlights that access to better broadband could deliver at least £3.6m to the area from increased economic activity. There will be additional benefits during the construction, with the creation of 8 full-time jobs.

CBS Director Mark Tate, said: “Finding ways to bring robust high-speed broadband to our most remote and rural communities, where all communications are notoriously difficult, will have a transformational impact on the way people live, work and learn. It opens avenues in both social and economic terms.

“This project is truly ground-breaking in the way it brings together the community, the private sector and public sector advice, support and funding to deliver a robust and sustainable next generation solution. The service will be delivered over a community-owned infrastructure that will be operated by a commercial internet service provider on a fixed term contract/lease with local labour. We were delighted with the quality and number of bidders prepared to take on this challenge and look forward to working with AB Internet and GigaPlus Argyll as we move into delivery stage.”

Darren Round of AB Internet said: “We’re really excited about helping to change the lives of the locals. Regardless of how you look at it, from the technical platform to the commercial model, or the community involvement to the headline user speeds, this is a ground-breaking project.”

In addition to the delivery of the infrastructure, CBS will work with GigaPlus Argyll, the HIE digital team and community groups to support local people with events and advice to get the most out of their new connections.



Funding Drive Launched to Bring Iceland Participatory Democracy Film to Scotland

Common Space (29/07/2015) - A documentary film that explores the redrafting of Iceland’s constitution in 2009 is set to tour Scotland if it can secure the funding to do so through a Kickstarter campaign.

The film has already toured North America and will reach Scotland as part of its European tour, should it raise the needed £20,000.

In January 2009 after months of protest following the Icelandic banking collapse the government headed by the centre right Independence Party stepped down to allow for new elections. The new government launched a participative redrafting of the constitution. Blueberry Soup documents the grassroots process of drafting the new constitution.

In the Kickstarter appeal documentary director Eileen Jerret, who is touring with the film and documenting the spread of its ideas along the way, said of the tour: “Due to the global applicability of what happened in Iceland the film tour has been requested in dozens of regions across the globe.

“Such an amazing story of triumph and citizenry deserves to be known. Letting this story quietly fade into the history books would be a tremendous loss for all those looking to strengthen democracy and revise how we govern ourselves.”

Commenting on the urgent need for funding for the Scottish leg of the European tour, Sam Eccles from So So Scotland who are promoting the film said: “Without support the film is unlikely to reach Scotland.

“Where screenings have occurred there has been an explosion of projects that were galvanizsd by those empowered by the screening,” she added.

“Funding from Scotland will foster new, national, discussions in the direction of innovative change and act as a channel for the new modes of civic participation - and perhaps even Scotland's own constitution created by its people.”



Latest Scottish Welfare News

Recent articles from the Scottish Government and Third Sector outline policies and reaction to the impact of welfare reform and spending reductions in Scotland. Read below for more.

Scottish Welfare Fund Helps Nearly 151,000 Households

Scottish Government (28/07/2015) - Nearly 151,000 households have been helped by the Scottish Welfare Fund, since the scheme began in April 2013. During the first two years of operation, around £65 million has been allocated, providing a safety net to households in a disaster or emergency and helping people set up home or stay in the community rather than being in care.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician today released statistics on the Scottish Welfare Fund covering 2014/15 and 2013/14. The statistics showed that of nearly 151,000 households helped to 31 March 2015, 82,000 were single people and 49,000 were families with children.

Read more.

Fear Charities Won’t Be Able to Meet Demand Created by Welfare Cuts

Third Force News (22/07/2015) - Pressure mounting on charities to pick up the slack from ‘draconian’ welfare cuts could lead to society’s most vulnerable people slipping through the net a major voluntary sector organisation has claimed.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said the £12bn of welfare cuts in the welfare, reform and work bill voted through the UK parliament this week will dangerously add to the already growing pressure on third sector service providers.

Read more.


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