Stirling Council has approved £85,000 of funding to improve broadband access for rural communities.

The Balquhidder Community Broadband (BCB) project will receive £70,000, while £15,000 will be allocated to Argaty and Kilbryde.

The additional cash for the BCB scheme will replace the contribution from Community Broadband Scotland following the support scheme’s closure.

It will allow the BCB project to be completed, ensuring that all 197 premises in the Balquhidder area will benefit from hyper-fast, future-proof and community-owned broadband. 

The investment into Argaty and Kilbryde will provide high-speed connectivity to 60 premises, using radio signals from fixed wireless technology rather than cables, minimising disruption. If the initiative is successful it may be extended to Kinbuck and other areas. 

The funding was approved at Thursday’s meeting of the Finance and Economy Committee. Members also approved the setting up of a Rural Broadband Forum involving officers, key partners and community representatives. 

Convener of the Finance and Economy Committee, Councillor Margaret Brisley said: “Improving internet access and speed of connectivity across rural Stirling is vital in supporting sustainable communities and delivering economic growth.

“To ensure communities receive enhanced internet access without delay, the Council has also delegated decision making for awards of under £50,000 to officers.” 

“This additional funding for the Balquhidder Community Broadband Project will deliver internet connections hundreds of times faster than those previously available from mainstream internet service providers, bringing significant benefits to the community and boosting the local economy.” 

Vice Convener of the Finance and Economy Committee, Councillor Alison Laurie, said: “I’m delighted to approve the funding for these two important initiatives which make a huge difference in these rural communities. 

“Delivering high-speed broadband connectivity will support economic growth and allow these community full access to essential services.” 

A partnership involving Stirling Council, internet service provider (ISP) Bogons and community interest company Balquhidder Community BCB, the Balquhidder Community Broadband (BCB) project was launched on 23 March 2018

Funded in part by an initial £100,000 investment from Stirling Council, along with a similar contribution from its commercial partner, and rural development funding from the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER programme, the BCB project is expected to bring in millions of pounds in economic gain.

The Council are actively supporting a number of projects seeking to enhance connectivity across rural Stirling who are in the initial stages of development. These include Arnprior, Blairlogie, Buchanan, Carron Valley, East Loch Lomond, Fintry, Gartness, Killearn, Kinbuck, Kinlochard, Strathard, Strafillan and Stronachlacher. 

Notes: One Full Time Equivalent Rural Broadband Project Officer, supported by Stirling Council and the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER programme, is in place until March 2020, to provide technical, project and funding support to communities. The Council has also allocated £300,000 per annum over the next two years to support rural broadband projects.