Stirling Council’s award-winning rural broadband programme has been hailed as a ‘game changer’ by newly-connected businesses at a popular beauty spot in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
Kat Goldin, smallholder at Gartur Stitch Farm, using the new superfast broadband to help grow her business

Lochend and Dykehead, which lie near the southern shores of the historic Lake of Menteith, are the latest communities in the rural Stirling area to benefit from world-class connectivity as part the transformative initiative.

Helped by an investment of £47,500 from the Council, the Lochend Estate Broadband Group worked with supplier Briskona to complete a *£62,000 project to connect more than 80 businesses and homes via a hybrid of fibre and fixed wireless technology.

Users on the network, which went live in May, can now enjoy download speeds of 100 Mbps and above, proving timely for some local businesses during the COVID-19 lockdown.

A game changer

Kat Goldin, a smallholder at Gartur Stitch Farm, which offers farm dinners, creative workshops and animal experiences, said: “The new fibre has been an amazing resource. During this difficult time, we have seen our business shift from in person events to online courses and e-commerce.

“We have been able to not only transform the business but to grow it as well, and it simply wouldn't have been possible without fast, reliable internet. Not to mention doing it all whilst having the children online schooling and streaming TV and games. It's been a game changer for us.”

The Council’s rural broadband programme supports communities in the development of alternative connectivity solutions, boosting economic growth and allowing residents access to vital services. A full time equivalent rural broadband project officer, supported by the local authority and the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER programme, provides technical, project and funding support to communities.

The scheme received two major accolades in 2019 - the Scottish Government’s Delivering Excellence Award at the 2019 COSLA Excellence Awards and the UK-wide **Independent Network Co-operative Association (INCA) Gold Prize.

Working in partnership

Convener of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, Cllr Margaret Brisley said: “It’s fantastic that another rural community is now connected to superfast broadband via this transformative programme.

“In these really challenging times, it is particularly pleasing that businesses, such as Gartur Stitch Farm, have been able to adapt and flourish thanks to improved connectivity.

“A key part of the programme’s success is working in partnership with local communities to deliver bespoke broadband solutions. This is another excellent example of that – credit to everyone involved in the project.”

Without this we would be lost in time

Topher Nairn, the owner of Lochend Chalets and Chair of Lochend Estate Broadband Group, said: “Our self catering lodges have to be more than a home from home.

“Stylish Scandinavian design and amazing views across the lake to Ben Lomond are not enough for the 21st century holiday maker - they require high speed access to the internet!

“Now families can stream movies and play games all at the same time. In the future the internet will be required to do more and more so without this fibre connection we would be lost in time. Thank you Stirling Council and Briskona."

There are now seven projects live in the rural Stirling area as a result of the scheme:

  • Balquhidder
  • Argaty & Kilbryde
  • Stockiemuir
  • Trossachs (Brig o’ Turk)
  • Carron Valley
  • Auchinleck
  • Lochend and Dykehead.

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

A number of other bespoke broadband initiatives in rural Stirling are also moving forward thanks to Council support, with a £50,000 grant awarded to the Inversnaid and Stronachlachar Broadband Project and £23,500 to the Gartness Community Infrastructure Project.

Life changing

Vice Convener of the Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, Cllr Alison Laurie said: “These positive testimonies from Lochend and Dykehead are a reminder that fast and reliable internet service can be life changing for rural communities, and reaffirms the Council’s determination to keep driving forward with our programme and get more remote areas connected.

“As we hopefully continue to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, we are looking forward to supporting other communities throughout the Stirling area so they can take their broadband solutions to the next stage.”

More information and picture details:

*The rest of the £62,000 funding came from a mix of private and Government funding - £5,500 from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the remainder from the supplier, Briskona.

** The INCA Gold Awards were launched in 2018 to celebrate the inroads being made by the UK independent broadband market.

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 for more information.

Pictures shows Kat Goldin, smallholder at Gartur Stitch Farm, using the new superfast broadband to help grow her business.