Living in the countryside may come with many upsides, such as a good quality of life, clean air and ample space in which to live, but it does come with one significant downside – broadband speeds. In rural areas of the UK, broadband download speeds are on average just 13.7Mbps, which is far slower than the 50.5Mbps average in urban areas. Majik House’s showroom was in one such rural community that wasn’t content with those slow speeds, so they turned to B4RN – which delivered some of the fastest broadband speeds found in the UK countryside.
B4RN takes a different approach to BT’s roll-out of fibre optic. While BT hires teams of people to lay down its fibre network cabling and ensure that the system works, B4RN leans on the help of 100s of volunteers and landowners who want to help the community get online.
Barry Forde, B4RN’s CEO, notes: “Most of the B4RN network is being built by local volunteers and landowners who know their community and the lie of the land. Each area that rises to the B4RN challenge has found it a wonderfully empowering and socially engaging opportunity. There’s nothing like building something for yourself and having that sense of pride and ownership.”
The knowledge of local people has been paramount to the successful completion of the networking projects. Farmers knowing where to dig and more importantly where not to dig. Landowners making direct roots more assessable and even people providing cups of tea and biscuits to the volunteers helping to dig the holes, feed the wires and connect the homes. So far B4RN have been able to pump £5million back into the local community.
Getting superfast blown fibre to rural properties is no easy feat, however with the help of volunteers B4RN have developed system to prove no property can go without. B4RN doesn’t go down the roads like BT, they have the ability to go across countryside which makes access to rural properties much easier to achieve. BT and similar companies have also got to abide by council regulations, whereas B4RN work with local land owners, who are more willing to oblige to their needs. The local community realise how essential this service is to the development of the local area, having a major effect on house prices and the success of local businesses.
B4RN are also able to achieve an immediate electricity connection using local properties such as farm buildings and village halls. BT haven’t got this luxury; they install their own electricity supply adding to the expense. This is where the problems start to arise. For example, if there are only 20 properties wanting to access fibre from BT in a parish, the cost implications of digging up roads and installing electrical hubs would be too much of an expense.
Through working with the community one community in the South Lakes has been able to get speeds of up to 1000Mbps. Not only that, but they pay similar rates to what BT customers would pay – but for far greater speeds. While BT’s price is roughly £25 a month with no installation charge for 76Mbps, B4RN charges users £30 per month with a £150 initial set-up charge.
Over 2,200 homes in North West England are already connected to the network, with the company claiming that 125 new connections are made each month.