The Kyles of Bute community broadband project reached a critical milestone in December with funding approval from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Community Broadband Scotland (CBS).
HIE and CBS have ring-fenced £320,000 for the project, with a further £30,000 being raised from within the community.
This approval signalled the commencement of a European procurement process to find a supplier and start construction.
Formed in 2016, Kyles Community Broadband Community Interest Company (KCB) has been campaigning vigorously for a solution to the very poor broadband provision in south-west Cowal and on Bute.
The organisation spent most of last year trying to gain clarity on the scope of the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) project at postcode level.
With the closing of the DSSB roll-out in late 2016, BT were finally able to provide categorical detail to KCB on which postcodes would not be covered by DSSB..
Understanding that for these unserved areas fit-for-purpose connectivity would not be forthcoming in the foreseeable future, and given the enthusiasm expressed in a series of public meetings at the beginning of 2016 for community broadband, KCB requested funding from Community Broadband Scotland (CBS).
With approval from HIE and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) granted for the scope of the project, KCB has launched the lengthy EU-specified procurement process needed to deliver the first phase of the community broadband service. Unfortunately the timescales this process necessitates mean that it is unlikely KCB will identify and commission their supplier before August this year.
Nevertheless, KCB say this is still the fastest route for residents to secure affordable high-speed internet.
KCB is aware that additional individual households in neighbouring postcodes on Bute and also over on the peninsula south and west of the Kyles, will also fall outside the scope of the BT DSSB roll-out. These properties will be identified through a detailed survey currently being conducted which reports back sometime in March.
As and when this survey is published, KCB will aim to immediately request more funding and launch a second procurement to provide broadband connectivity to those households.