My family decided to move to a rural location in northern England. Knowing that my job depends on excellent internet connections, friends expressed concern that by moving away from towns and their services, I wouldn’t be able to access the internet at the same speeds as I was getting through the major UK private provider.
They are right, I don’t get the same speeds. I get far better – and at less cost than my previous service.
How is this possible? Northern England has a groundbreaking (literally) community initiative called Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN). The initiative started in 2011 to connect a small number of rural parishes with very poor broadband service. The business model is based on seeking permission and assistance from farmers to support digging trenches across their land, the commitment of local volunteers, and individual and community investment. The result is a gigabit network that is entirely fibre optic and entirely B4RN community owned.
In addition to providing free service to places of worship and small village schools, village halls also get free service when they host one of the cabinets. This is all part of an underlying vision of the initiative – to support sustainable, rural communities:
“In recent decades rural areas have suffered from a reduced number of job opportunities, but reliable high speed internet gives businesses and homeworkers in our communities an advantage. We love the idea that this can lead to more job opportunities so young people don’t have to move away! More young families mean better support for local schools, post offices, village shops… altogether a more sustainable community.”
As our local, national and global interactions move ever more online, and the profits of Big Tech companies continue to grow, models such as B4RN are ever more important to show what is possible when people have the vision, resolve, capacity, and regulatory environment to enable fundamental communication rights for their community.
Do you have an example of similar initiatives of community communication initiatives? Please share by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo above: B4RN’s business model is based on seeking permission and assistance from farmers to support digging trenches across their land, the commitment of local volunteers, and individual and community investment. Pictured is Peter Cotterill, a volunteer from the #ravenstonedale group with #teamB4RN contractor, Tony Middleton. Credit: B4RN.