Another valiant effort is taking place to connect rural England to real broadband Internet. This time it is happening in Lancashire’s rural areas north of Lancaster.
This is being achieved through a community-benefit company called “B4RN” which stands for “Broadband for Rural North”. The service is a fibre-to-the-premises service that is being provided to homes, farms and small businesses in these rural parishes. They have a goal to cover all of the 5162 properties but are working it in three phases. This is with the digging of the first phase to commence around Christmas 2011 and the first subscribers on board by January 2012.
What is interesting is that the capital for the effort is being raised through a share issue to the community and that the company is established as a “community-benefit” company where the assets are there for the community rather than being sold off if anything happens to the company.
The effort for he broadband rollout is being driven through shared local labour. It doesn’t matter whether it is to dig the necessary trenches or lay down the conduit and fibre-optic cable in order to connect up the properties. There is even support for training and upskilling locals into these areas where necessary and even the business’s office labour is local-based. One of the videos on the B4RN site even related this effort to how mains electricity was brought to rural Lancashire in the 1930s, through the use of community effort in preparing the infrastructure for the service.
At the moment, B4RN are selling the 1Gbps broadband services for £30 / month tax inclusive and with a £150 connection fee. A good question that may be raised with this service is whether B4RN would be looking at supplying VoIP telephony and / or IPTV as part of an extra-cost option or primarily offer a “purely-data” service for their customers. This is although most next-generation services typically will be expected to offer a “single-pipe triple-play” service with TV and telephony down the same connection as part of their service pack.
This service is another example of how rural communities can become active about bringing real broadband Internet to their areas rather than bemoaning the lack of the service. It also put forward the case for use of fibre-optic technology to deliver broadband to farms rather than unreliable radio services.