Lammermuirs have brief window of opportunity for broadband …

BT has come up with a solution to overcome the problem of broadband access for rural premises that are too far away from the local telephone exchange and Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus Community Council are hoping that they can find enough people in the area interested in getting broadband to allow them to apply for a Scottish Government grant.

The solution involves people in remote areas getting access to 1MB or even 2MB of broadband by amplifiers being fixed on the line. It has been successfully piloted in the Highlands and could be introduced in the Lammermuirs, but speed is of the essence. Mark Rowley of the community council explained: “There is currently a very narrow window to apply for some funding under a Scottish Government initiative, one that could allow us to upgrade equipment that would allow broadband internet access at far greater distances than is currently possible.

“Scottish Borders Council is very supportive and European Leader funding could potentially fund the capital costs entirely. “We just need to get a list together of numbers that can’t get broadband, but that needs to be done within a week or so! “To move onto the next stage we need to find an initial group of those who are connected to the Longformacus telephone exchange (Longformacus, Cranshaws, Ellemford and all the outlying farms settlements and cottages such as Byrecleuch, Rawburn, Henlaw, Crichness, Kilpallet, Priestlaw, Bothwell, Mayshiel etc) who can’t currently get broadband.

“If you can’t get access to broadband, or if you know someone who can’t, please drop me an email or give me a call. We need numbers within a week or so to make progress, but at this stage all we need is a name and a telephone number – if we can get a sufficient number together we may have a very good chance of a successful bid for both the funding and getting the works done. “This looks like the most likely and practical opportunity we are going to get in the short term to give workable broadband access to the many in the Lammermuir hills who are at a distance from the telephone exchange and the villages.

“There is no commitment – we just need a name and telephone number for anyone currently unable to access broadband. The more we get the more likely we are to be successful. I know the frustrations that having fairly minimal broadband creates, but I know I’m lucky to have that, I just can’t imagine how increasingly difficult it must be for those in our community who can’t even get that restricted service when internet access is becoming a much more important way to access services and communicate.

“This is possibly the best opportunity we may have to allow those in our community without any broadband to access it – that must be seen as vitally important these days and something well worth fighting to get?” Abbey St Bathans residents succeeded in getting internet access in March this year through a Government programme to improve internet access across Scotland but connection speed is slow, an issue taken up by Berwickshire MSP John Lamont, who said: “A connection speed of just 512kbps is simply not acceptable particularly for businesses or other essential internet users. The Government must ensure that everyone in Scotland has the opportunity to access a good broadband service.

Rural communities like those in Berwickshire cannot be allowed to fall behind our large cities and towns otherwise it will have a serious negative impact on the local economy.” The Scottish Government accepts that broadband is an increasingly vital tool for businesses and households, which is why rural communities are currently being given the chance to bid for a share of a million-Euro fund to bring enhanced broadband to their areas. The new investment is being delivered by the LEADER scheme supporting small-scale, community driven projects in rural areas and is aimed at improving coverage and bringing faster broadband to rural communities.

Rural Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that as many people as possible have broadband access and have already carried out a significant amount of work in this area.”

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