More than 700 homes and businesses have been connected to superfast broadband across rural Stirling using a ‘hybrid’ solution of fibre and fixed wireless technology.

The milestone was reached after the final 50 premises were hooked up to faster internet speeds in Blair Drummond, thanks to a council-run scheme.

Keir and Blair Drummond Community Broadband Group were supported by Stirling Council for the innovative project, which was implemented by local supplier Briskona.

Thirty-five homes and 16 businesses are part of the network which went live in late September and the project is already delivering benefits for many.

Mary Inglis, who runs the popular Briarlands Farm, a working mixed farm with a range of fun family outdoor and indoor activities, said: “Having an improved broadband service has been invaluable to us as a business and particularly this year, with the introduction of online ticketing.

“It is vital that we have a reliable connection in order to check our guests in quickly and efficiently on arrival at the farm, and we no longer suffer from the periods of ‘no service’ we did previously. This is never a good thing with a queue of excited children to deal with.

“As a marketing tool the use of social media is now key, so knowing that we can get our message out quickly is a massive advantage to us.”

Dr Guthrie Blackhurst, a consultant physician who lives in Blair Drummond, said: “Having decent, reliable broadband has turned out to be essential. It’s allowed me to do virtual medical clinics remotely during the pandemic. I would have had to rely on phone calls otherwise which are much less effective.”

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.

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.

More than 1,000 residents and 200 business in 21 rural communities have now benefited from the Council’s ambitious digital rural rollout which is critical to the growth of Stirling’s rural economy.

Convener of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, Cllr Margaret Brisley said: “The ongoing pandemic means this continues to be a hugely challenging time for businesses in our rural areas, making fast and reliable broadband all the more important for them.

“It’s no exaggeration to say this technology can be life-changing for rural communities and it’s fantastic that more residents and businesses in the Blair Drummond area are benefiting from superfast connectivity via the Council’s rural broadband programme.”

Vice Convener, Cllr Alison Laurie said: “The Keir and Blair Drummond scheme is another excellent example of the Council working in partnership with a rural community to deliver a tailored broadband solution that meets their needs.

“A huge well done to all involved in making this project a reality and we are looking forward to supporting other rural communities in their efforts to access world-class connectivity in 2021.”