My CommentsIn 2011, there was a valiant effort that started off to cover parts of the north of England with real broadband Internet service. This was in the form of B4RN (Broadband For Rural North) which is a community effort that is based on local contribution including the contribution of personal effort to deploy the service. The standard of this service is a pure-play symmetrical Gigabit fibre-to-the-premises broadband service but B4RN are facilitating VoIP telephony in conjunction with Vonage, an American pure-play VoIP provider who has set up presence in the UK.
This effort has encompassed Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria and there has been strong local interest and participation because of the fact that BT have been neglecting many rural areas. This state of affairs is something that a lot of people who dwell or work in rural areas sadly experience. The rollout has had the locals face many problems relating to its deployment and had them work out how to solve them.
Just lately, the B4RN effort has connected 1600 premises with 100 connected per month with the figure driven by the available effort. It has yielded a 65% service takeup with the price payable by end users being GBP£30 per month for the symmetrical Gigabit unlimited service and a GBP£150 connection fee.
As well, most of the original network, which encompasses 800km of core network, has been laid but the B4RN effort is expanding to more of rural North England. The same effort has been able to “pick up” areas where other projects have failed like Cumbria’s Fibre GarDen scheme.
I have read some accounts on the Yealands page where this network has enabled small businesses and community organisations. One of these is a small garage (Facebook link) who specialise in tuning cars for performance being able to exchange files with a partner based in Blackpool to modify engine-management units in order to performance-tune those cars. As well, the St. Johns Anglican church in Yealand which is one of those archetypal English village churches, ended up being connected to the B4RN broadband network and took advantage of this technology to “broadcast” a funeral service that they hosted to family members based in Sydney, Australia. They even want to take this further for sharing the wedding and funeral services that they host with participants who are separated by distance.
Like with Gigaclear, B4RN raised the issue of BT Openreach overbuilding their infrastructure but it may be seen as an effort to nawt because of a significant customer base who have invested in it. A question that may end up being raised is whether B4RN will end up becoming wholesale infrastructure for other retail ISPs rather than just an “end-to-end” provider. This would encompass the availability of multiple-play services via that infrastructure.
What B4RN is showing is that the rural areas have as much need for real broadband as urban areas and is highlighting that these areas can be about moving towards the country or starting a business there without losing the concept of real broadband.