With the broadband very close to rolling out through the community it is good to take stock on how we have got to here in Applecross. When the community company was set up, initially to “save” our Filling Station, a consultation established the most urgent needs within the community and one of them was the issue of employment. Not just employment but more varied and diverse and poor broadband provision was cited as something that was holding back opportunities. Already there are skills within the community that are under utilised both on a personal and community level. In many cases people assume that agendas are being followed but the beauty of the community company is that only the wishes of the membership control the direction of the company. The ownership is in the hands of the community. So with this in mind Alison put together a funding application together for a pilot project to Investing in Ideas.This evolved from a feasibility study into a pilot project as contact was made with Hebnet, Simon Helliwell and Ian Bolas from Eigg and Rhum respectively. A scheme was already underway in Knoydart and has been extended to their islands of Eigg and Rhum.There has been 100% take up on their scheme. The application was accepted and work with Simon and Ian began with Alison finding the host, first trying the Broadford Co-op but this did not have a positive response.
The Broadford Village Hall proved far more conducive and the system was installed with the dish pointing our way and the receiver installed on the Tor Mor above the Hall where free broadband was installed along with eight other connections and teething problems were then ironed out.
Leading up to and during the installation both Jill and Sean’s volunteering work have been invaluable. I sometimes think that volunteer hours should be tallied up but I suppose that goes against the principles of volunteering and starts to sound like The Big Society call from deep south. Which as far as I can see is just government withdrawing from services and expecting to save money from volunteers. Once volunteering is not freely given then you are on a road to disaster. I can only claim to write about it and help roll a power cable down a hill in the rain for the power supply to the Tor Mor receiver. Despite a little negativity in the community about whether it is going to work, all of it uninformed, the project is a classic community based example of every one benefiting both on a personal and community level.It ties in with something I have come to believe that if a community is functioning on a level that everyone has the chance to benefit from the workings of that community structure then that model is working. We may be moving towards that goal. From the Tor Mor the signal is beamed back to the shed on the pier and then back to the houses and it works.
The next stage was the Village SOS application which we needed to roll the broadband through out the community and this coupled with abusiness plan that showed its social enterprise capacity in being able to finance itself. This was duly applied for and just short of £50,000 was awarded last autumn. In conjunction with this Community Broadband Scotland was being set up by the Scottish Govt in order to help provide broadband provision in remote, rural communities where fibre optic is not going to be an option. So it was for Alison to go off to the DTAS and put the case for Applecross to be included in their plans and this is what has happened. We were chosen as one of the rural communities where inovative solutions were being tried out or at least being considered. So with all this groundwork having been done and part of the Village SOS grant being put aside to pay for a part time project officer George has come on board for ten months to assist on the roll out. As with everything new there will be lots of doubts about the scheme, but all I can say it works and when I hear about all the other problems throughout the community regarding broadband, I am so glad that we were part of the pilot project. Business plans,tender documents and grant applications are going ahead just now working closely with Hebnet and CBS. There was a conference last week organised by CBS, the Hebnet boys were over for a visit and today CBS’ Sandra and Alastair are over this afternoon.
Went to the meeting this afternoon for the first hour, only Sandra was over and good to see her again. Went so I would be ok with any one asking questions about installation, backhaul, a few bits of techy detail like wayleaves and memorandums of understandings just so I know what is going on, I am a director so best that I do. Off to the Inn for an uplifting shift where everything went like a dream, very busy but it was a night where everyone was aware and helpful and very appreciative for everything they got to eat and drink. The French who turned up late in the camper van that had come over the Hill with his brakes practically on fire could not say enough about the food. Luckily they had a translator and it was very pleasant to pass on to the kitchen the comments especially as young Kenny is now on the stove on Wednesdays. A good day. I live in a good community where there is lots going on and lots of good people live here.