Stirling Council’s transformational rural broadband programme has been shortlisted for another prestigious accolade.
Stirling Council Employees Posing

The local authority is in the running for a Gold Award in the rural impact category from the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA).

Launched in 2018 to celebrate the inroads being made by the UK independent broadband market, the INCA Golds winners will be announced at a special ceremony in Manchester, on 16/17 October.

It comes after the local authority’s ground-breaking work in connecting rural communities saw it named among the finalists for the 2019 COSLA Excellence Awards, which also take place this month.

Commend all those involved

Convener of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, Cllr Margaret Brisley said: “Ensuring communities across Stirling can access superfast broadband is a key Council priority and I am thrilled our efforts in this area have been recognised again.

“I would like to commend all those involved, including our hardworking staff, and the community groups and partner organisations we are collaborating with on this transformative programme.”

Backed by £300,000 of annual capital funding, the Council is supporting rural communities in the development of alternative broadband solutions, boosting economic growth and allowing residents access to vital services.

One Full Time Equivalent Rural Broadband Project Officer, supported by the local authority and the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER programme, is also in place until March 2020, to provide technical, project and funding support to communities.

Across Stirling, there are 18 innovative schemes at various stages of completion, with six projects live - Balquhidder, Argarty & Kilbryde, Stockiemuir, Trossachs, Carron Valley and Auchenteck. So far, this has enabled almost 600 households and businesses to benefit from the technology.

Free public Wi-Fi in Aberfoyle town centre is also up and running, benefiting businesses, communities and visitors in the area.

Positive progress

Cllr Alison Laurie said: “We are committed to rolling out of this key infrastructure as its supports sustainable communities, delivers economic growth and provides a range of other important benefits to residents and businesses.

“Having our rural broadband work highlighted on a UK-wide level is further evidence we are making positive progress but we will continue working with partners to ensure everyone in the Stirling area can access this essential technology.” 

Malcolm Corbett, INCA CEO, said: “We are delighted to have had such a high volume of entries for the second year running. What has been especially interesting is the variety of entries we have received.

“There has been a real shift towards a wider participation than before, with entries coming not only from those providing crucial services to rural and underserved communities through fibre, but also from those now providing networks via some fascinating and innovative new means.”

In 2018, the Council’s broadband programme was recognised by INCA when Balquhidder Community Broadband (BCB )was named as the best UK community project.

Funded in part by an initial £100,000 investment from the Council, along with a similar contribution from its commercial partner, as well as rural development funding from the LEADER programme, the BCB project is already proving transformative to local families and businesses and is expected to bring in millions of pounds in economic gain.

Picture details and background info:

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

Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER is funded through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Scottish Government as part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme.  See www.fvl.org.uk for more information.

Picture shows community representatives from Argaty and Kilbryde Broadband Group (AKBG) and Stirling Council officers at visitor attraction, Argaty Red Kites, which is among the rural businesses benefiting from the vastly improved connectivity. Pictured at the purpose-built hide are (from left) Mike Smith, Treasurer of AKBG; Senad Cehaja, LEADER Project Assistant; Jamie Parsons, Director at Briskona; Stuart Oliver, Stirling Council Senior Manager, Economic Development and Communities; Shaun Marley, Stirling Council Broadband Advisor; Niall Bowser, Chairperson of AKBG. Pictures should be credited to Whyler Photos/Stirling Council.