Shinness Broadband Investigation

Telephone Conversation With Sarah Marshall, Community Broadband Scotland




Sarah Marshall, Community Broadband Scotland Advisor for Shetland, Caithness, and Sutherland;
Charles Macfarlane, Shinness Broadband Investigation.

Sarah began by explaining that she was the local advisor for Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), and gave a resumée of their work in general  which was to support local communities with advice, and, where appropriate, funding to help create financially self-sustaining broadband projects to provide broadband in local areas that wouldn't be reached by other means  and also in particular of the Scottish Government's (SG) policy to ensure that every home in Scotland would have access to Superfast Broadband (download speeds of greater than 30Mbps) by 2021.  CBS will have a role in the delivery of this target and is working with a number of communities across Scotland to develop broadband projects.  In the Lairg area, a community broadband project is being led by Magda Macdonald from Lairg and District Community Initiatives.

Note:  Most of this information is already available elsewhere on this site, so is not repeated in detail here.

Charles thanked Sarah for getting in touch and her explanation, but voiced two concerns arising from his meeting with Magda Macdonald …

Sarah outlined the three main stages for developing a community broadband project:

  1. Stage 1  Community Engagement
    This is vital to assess what appetite there is for an improved broadband service.  Critically, what broadband speeds people would like to receive and how much they would be willing to pay.  This is essential for building a business case and for helping to design a network that will meet the needs of local people.  This could take as little as 1 month or as long as 12.
  2. Stage 2  Project Planning
    This was expected to take around 6 months.
  3. Stage 3  Procurement and Applying for Funding
    This was expected to take some considerable time, because of the complex procedures that had to be gone through to obtain European Union (EU) funding and to adhere to EU procurement regulations.  She explained that a small project could take 3 months, a large project as long as 9 - 12 months, to go through procurement and to get funding approved.

She went on to say that the very earliest Shinness could hope to benefit from the SG roll out was 2018.

Charles thanked Sarah for her explanation but voiced his disappointment at such delay.  He then asked Sarah for details about the current FTTC project at Lairg Exchange.

Sarah explained that there was now a fibre cabinet live at Invershin.  Fibre cabinets are planned for the Lairg exchange area but the initial planning had not given the coverage that had been hoped for so further planning is going on to maximise coverage in Lairg.

Charles then asked Sarah for contact addresses during her impending month's leave, and, these being supplied, the call was ended.

Sarah has since added the following:  "One thing that I am not sure I made completely clear is that future broadband roll out to reach the SG target will take two forms  one will be a form of community broadband project and the other will be further broadband roll out similar to DSSB (but not necessarily done the same way).  A community would be covered by SG roll out or a community broadband project, we're still awaiting clarity on how CBS projects will work in trying to reach the target."