Broadband fling! Rebel Scottish village builds Gigabit network

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Balquhidder, a remote rural Scottish community, is building its own 1Gbps broadband network, after a decade of unsuccessfully trying to get commercial suppliers in the region to provide a better service.

The new network will be among the fastest in the UK – and the world – giving the village and surrounding areas access to broadband that is up to hundreds of times faster than the services available locally at present.

Many in the village have no broadband access at all, or only slow copper connections, or have been relying on expensive, patchy satellite services.

The project has seen local volunteers defy the network giants by digging trenches and laying fibre cables themselves across the landscape in the Trossachs National Park in central Scotland, on the southern boundary of the Highlands near Loch Lomond.

Balquiddher

Community interest company Balquhidder Community Broadband (BCB) will deliver the service to all the premises in the area, working in partnership with Stirling Council and internet service provider, Bogons.

• BCB is encouraging other communities to share their stories of poor connectivity and get in touch via its website, to see if it can help.

Two local residents are behind the scheme: scientist Richard Harris, and retired police officer David Johnston. Harris told the Sunday Post, “For each cluster of connections we are trying to find a champion to organise people in their area.

“The farmers will do most of the digging with their machines and we will have volunteers who will help out with that. After that, we will be looking for particular people to train on how to install the cable.”

Joining the three percent

The community project will see businesses and residents of Balqhidder’s 197 properties joining the tiny fraction of customers in the UK that have Gigabit connectivity.

The UK government said this month that only three percent of UK premises have access to full-fibre broadband connections. There are 27 million households in the UK, so that equates to roughly 800,000 premises.

However, few of those connections deliver 1Gbps, so the actual number of premises with Gigabit access is far smaller than that. As a result, Balquhidder’s businesses and residents will soon have the fastest broadband in the country, and among the fastest in the world.

• The world’s fastest average fixed-line broadband speed is in Singapore, with download rates of 161Mbps. The UK is currently 29th on that list – and falling – with average speeds that are less than one-third of that: just 50.45Mbps. The Balquhidder project is unlikely to boost the UK’s ranking, because so few people in the UK have access to Gigabit broadband as to be statistically insignificant. The UK only ranks 45th in the world on mobile broadband speeds, according to Speedtest.net.

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Funded with £100,000 startup investment from Stirling Council, similar investment from its commercial partner, and rural development money from the Scottish LEADER programme, the Balquhidder project is expected to bring millions of pounds in economic gains to the area.

The network takes shape.

Speaking at the project’s launch, Johnston, now a director at BCB, said: “This project is hugely significant. Residential homes and businesses, some of which currently have no broadband, will be able to cancel existing poor copper-to-the-premise broadband and line rental contracts and enjoy world-class service, for less than most are currently paying.

“This has been a genuine collaboration between local businesses, local government, local people, and our commercial partner Bogons, to lay the foundations for broadband connectivity in Balquhidder on a par with the rest of the world.”

Starting a rebellion

Brandon Butterworth, a director of Bogons, said that the project could be the start of a rebellion, in effect, against slow, expensive service providers:

“We are looking to help other communities where the community is willing to do the digging and other works for us to install the fibre. A DIY dig saves the community a significant part of the installation cost where any fibre, even fibre to the cabinet, has not previously been available.”

Local businesses include the Mhor Group, which operates restaurants and a hotel in the area. Owner Tom Lewis, said: “This broadband scheme is vital to the development of our businesses. The markets we target expect, and demand, a good internet connection.

“Our current satellite feed is really expensive and only lets us provide limited email services to our customers, which has had a negative impact on our corporate conference business.

“It will be transformational once we’re connected, and will finally allow us to manage our businesses in Balquhidder, Callander, and Glasgow from our home in Balquhidder.”

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Internet of Business says

After a decade of campaigning, this community project should be applauded for saying “enough is enough” to the UK’s big service providers. In many cases, those companies have failed to provide anything like a world-class service to their customers – particularly in rural areas, but in other parts of the UK too.

At the heart of the problem is BT. As the big beast that sits, one way or another, on much of the UK’s ageing infrastructure, BT has arguably been the single biggest brake on the UK’s digital ambitions.

This is because instead of investing in upgrading the network to world-class standards for the good of the whole economy – as South Korea, Singapore, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and others have done – its policy has long been to regard true high-speed broadband as an expensive premium add-on.

In short, it has no economic incentive to do better, and the world rankings prove that BT has no basis for claiming that its basic services are “super fast”, as it has been doing for years. The UK barely scrapes into the world top 30.

In some areas of the country, including some cities, standard BT services are anything but super fast, with speeds that are often slower than 10Mbps. That’s 100 times slower than the service that villagers in Balquhidder will soon be receiving. 

Residents in a property in central Brighton – a city that is home to countless digital startups and app providers – told Internet of Business, “We salute Balquhidder for rolling up their sleeves and fixing this problem themselves. It’s brilliant that a rural community, where broadband connectivity is often non-existent, will soon have some of the fastest broadband in the country.

“In the centre of so-called ‘digital Brighton’, in the affluent south of England, the BT broadband in our building is currently 3.5Mbps on a good day – about half the speed that it was five years ago. That’s slower than the average speed available in Venezuela, which has the slowest broadband in the world.

“Once we complained to the Chairman’s office at BT. They told us, ‘Broadband isn’t a utility and it never will be’. That’s an unbelievable statement for a company like BT to make, but it says it all. They don’t believe it’s an essential service, and they’re only interested in their premium customers.

“We’re stuck with BT until a cable provider moves onto our street. Unfortunately, we can’t just grab some spades and dig up the road ourselves, much as we’d like to. It’d be simpler for us to move to rural Scotland.”

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Anna and the Apocalypse is everything the words “Scottish Christmas zombie musical” imply

Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our brief breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special event releases. This review comes from Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who hear the words “Scottish Christmas zombie musical comedy” and start scouring the internet for showtimes, and people who hear those words, roll their eyes, and mutter about the ridiculous extremes of mash-up culture. The latter group will want to skip Anna and the Apocalypse, which is exactly as advertised: a low-budget, high-energy independent musical comedy made in Scotland, and centering on how a group of angsty high-schoolers on the cusp of graduation deal with a sudden outbreak of living-deadism.

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A Scottish Council Just Approved the Country’s Largest Solar Farm

Scottish Solar

The Moray Council has given Elgin Energy the green light to build a 20MW solar farm near Urquhart in the Scottish Highlands. The 47-hectare (.18 square mile) Speyslaw site will be outfitted with around 80,000 solar panels.

Elgin Energy is the company behind a 13MW project in Perthshire that is currently Scotland’s largest solar farm, and the company is going to great lengths to ensure that the new build doesn’t interfere with the land’s current agricultural usage.

“Existing field boundaries will not be disturbed and mature hedgerows will provide generous screening for the site,” they wrote in a statement, according to BBC. All cabling for the project will be buried underground as well, allowing sheep to graze in and around the site.

Image Credit: Elgin Energy

The northeast of Scotland is well-suited for solar energy projects because it typically enjoys clear skies and long daylight hours. To take further advantage of these characteristics, Elgin Energy is also seeking planning permission for a 50MW farm near the city of Elgin.

A start date for the Moray build hasn’t yet been announced, but once completed, the amount of clean energy produced by the farm should help Scotland achieve its clean energy targets.

A Global Trend

Solar energy has reached a point where it’s both cost-effective and relatively straightforward to install. All over the world, the technology is being implemented on both the commercial and residential scale to help people meet their energy needs.

The World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Last month, Indian Railways rolled out a train that’s topped with solar panels to provide power for its on-board lighting, fans, and other components, which is expected to save the company Rs41,000 crore ($ 6.31 billion) over the next decade.

Earlier this year, China became the largest producer of solar energy in the world, and in the U.S., former president Jimmy Carter is using a single solar farm to provide electricity for half of his town.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s affordable, efficient solar roofs are putting solar energy in the hands of the individual, and they could have a profound effect on how the nation meets its energy needs. Ikea has launched a line of solar panels and home battery packs for consumers in the U.K., and Lucid Motors is even proving our cars could be powered by solar energy.

Ultimately, solar is proving to be the energy source of the future, and this latest build in Scotland is likely just one of many new projects to come.

The post A Scottish Council Just Approved the Country’s Largest Solar Farm appeared first on Futurism.

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Healthcare and housing companies among seven in Scottish startup IoT accelerator programme

CENSIS, a centre of excellence for sensor and imaging systems technologies, has organised its first Internet of Things (IoT) Explorer programme in order to boost IoT adoption by businesses, with seven Scotland-based SMEs and startups winning a place in this programme.

The successful companies include detainees’ health monitoring technology developer Angel Monitors, Attis Fitness, which creates smart sportswear which when combined with an app, tells the runner regarding their performance and reduces the risk of injury, and Safehinge, producers of doorsets and door components for mental health environments.

Healthcare operator Beringar has won support to develop its sensor technology that can help hospitals make better use of moveable assets and facilities. iOpt Assets is the interim of developing an Internet of Things (IoT) technology that will allow landlords to monitor conditions in social housing and identify problems, if any, such as damp or fuel poverty, for residents.

The last companies involved are a joint bid from DeuXality and Stonnivation, and SussMyBike. While the former are developing an app that will allow mountain bikers to share their trails and times with other riders in remote locations, the latter, SussMyBike, has developed a Bluetooth-enabled, IoT device for real-time evaluation and optimisation of bike suspension – the company said the technology could be extended to a range of other vehicles.

The engineering and project management team at the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems provide the winners up to 20 days’ support. The winners also receive access to facilities at Tontine incubator at Glasgow, entry to CENSIS’s IoT workshops, and assistance in developing an investor pitch.

“These businesses demonstrate that a wide range of organisations are embracing what the IoT has to offer,” said Dr Mark Begbie, business development director at CENSIS. “Not only are they new and innovative ideas, but many of them tackle fundamental social challenges we face today.”

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