Friday, July 13, 2012

Community broadband projects update

There have been a number of reports in the press recently about local, often community-led broadband projects, in the wake of the coverage of the B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) project, the winner of the Internet Hero award at the recent Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) awards, "for bringing high speed internet into remote rural communities, setting an example for others to follow."

In the Cotswolds, ThinkBroadband reported that Cotswolds Broadband is looking to deploy a full fibre (FTTP) service to some 9,000 homes in the Chipping Norton area of West Oxfordshire:
"Cotswolds Broadband will be the infrastructure operator, allowing a variety of retail providers to offer their service over the network, with initially packages connecting at 40 Mbps and 100 Mbps. The project has some funding from the Rural Community Broadband Fund which is administered by DEFRA and the BDUK with the purpose of improving broadband in the more rural parts of the UK. The level of funding is thought to be around £1.5m."
Some Googling also revealed Cotswold Wireless, who provide networks that "extend widely over the Cotswolds and surrounding areas" (more details including a link to a coverage map here).

In Dorset, ISP Review reported that the Communities Partnership Executive of North Dorset (CPEND) is proposing to solve local rural broadband woes by laying a fibre optic cable along a former railway line (trailway) that runs from Sturminster Newton to Blandford:
"...the plan would involve running a fibre optic cable down the 8 mile stretch of trailway and linking up several villages along the way including Durweston, Stourpaine, Shillingstone, Child Okeford and Okeford Fitzpaine. Several further villages, Manston, Hammoon and Fiddleford, could potentially also be included into the project. The CPEND is now understood to be developing a full application that would aim to secure a slice of RCBF’s £20 million budget and might also seek additional money through private investment. Bournemouth University has also started a local survey to assess the projects potential economic and social impact. Overall some 2,200 people and 100 businesses could benefit."
The Telegraph reported that broadband is being delivered via church spires in Norfolk, similar to the service provided by Allpay in Herefordshire (more here):
"From the top of All Saints church in the village of Salhouse, Norfolk, it’s striking how many other church towers can be seen, rising up from nearby villages. They are the tallest man-made objects for some distance and they could be the key to delivering decent broadband speeds to rural Norfolk. WiSpire, a wireless internet service provider (WISP) backed by the Diocese of Norwich, is putting transmitters and receivers on top of Norfolk churches and using them to beam broadband signals across the county...WiSpire’s plan is to transmit its broadband signal across the county from church to church. Six churches are connected now and up to 10 more will come online over the next two months. By the end of next year the company hopes to have around 50 churches, covering the majority of Norfolk."
The same article reports that WISP, County Broadband, is delivering internet services to north Essex and south Suffolk, and also that satellite broadband provider ToowayDirect has announced an upgrade of its services to deliver as much as 18Mbps download speeds (more here).

Finally, earlier this year ThinkBroadband reported that in Hampshire a school's fibre connection has been used to provide broadband for the local community, previously a broadband notspot:
"A variety of partners have worked together to create a case, showing that certainly in Hampshire, there is scope for using Public Service Networks such as the fibre services linking schools to also connect residents. The village of Little London now has people connecting to the hybrid FTTC/Wireless service which has people running at speeds of 30 to 40 Mbps and uploading material at 10 to 15 Mbps, previously about the best they could hope for was 0.5Mbps. The village had very limited broadband service previously and through the partnership of Hampshire County Council, Magdalene, Netadmin, Fluidata and Virgin Media there is now a live service."
More details here, school connections have also been used in this way by NYnet in North Yorkshire and I've discussed this approach previously here and here.

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