There are said to be parallels in the impact that the advent of the telegraph and the internet had on their respective societies. This chapter looks at two examples of state intervention and subsidy in the development of those two communications infrastructures in remote and rural areas of Scotland, at either end of the revolution in electric communications. Both applied the technology of the day to break down geographical barriers, to increase connectivity, to spread information, and to enhance social and business links. Both initiatives grew in part out of a government concern that Scotland should not fall behind the level of technological provision available in other European countries, thereby disadvantaging Scottish business as well as citizens (a comparison with the state-owned telegraph systems in Belgium, Switzerland and France informed the 1868 Telegraph Act, and the development of a broadband infrastructure across a range of European Union countries has been quoted by the Scottish Government). The emphasis in both cases was on affordable wide-ranging availability to benefit individuals as much as business, though with an understanding that business needs would be the driver and would provide the bulk of the finance to establish and maintain the infrastructure. The first was a product of nationalisation with the expansion of the telegraph network from 1870 to 1872 driven by demand. Following is an analysis of that demand and its impact, alongside a description of the development of the network across remote and rural areas over the two years of the scheme. The second examines the rationales behind Scottish Government initiatives since 2001 to extend broadband provision and outlines the technical solutions devised in partnership with commercial operators and funding bodies to reach non-commercially viable areas and to stimulate take up.
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