Friday, 2 December 2011
We all knew today would come, it was just when, but now it really is ALL go! Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN or Barn to its followers) has passed the required number of registrations to proceed with building a world class, gigabit, ubiquitous, community owned and run, community benefit FTTH network. And there's more....
This blog post can be read at 5tth.blogspot.com
There is an invite-only Launch event for the company and share offer on 15th December at 2pm at The Storey, Lancaster. This is an opportunity for potential investors and those that B4RN will be connecting to come together to meet the Management Committee, hear much more about the project, see the maps, and more. (Cyberdoyle has promised cake too!) Full details of the share offer will be given and for many it will be a chance to learn what they can do to help with the next phase. This is a hands-on community project and our network of supporters extends around the globe already. (If you would like to attend the Launch event, please let infoatb4rndotorgdotuk know ASAP as space is limited to 150 people).
Unless you have been living off-planet, you will know by now what B4RN intends to do. How we are going about doing it is undoubtedly unique, but we believe it will prove to be (and have designed the project to be) eminently replicable elsewhere. Our main aim is to connect what is (if there was a proper definition) the Final Ten Percent and disprove all these claims of rural and remote FTTH non-viability. The first 8 parishes are without a doubt in deeply rural areas. I can highlight just how rural by saying that when we were looking at which bank we should approach for the company account and/or for a loan deal for anyone looking to borrow the money at a special rate to buy shares, we realised that there wasn't actually a branch of ANY bank in the project area! (Which highlights the importance of being able to access internet banking...)
The next phase requires an incredible amount of commitment from a growing number of people so this blog may become less rant-ridden over the coming months as I am as determined as any other member of the current Management Team and the Lune Valley residents to make this succeed by throwing everything we have at it from our own skills and expertise. And it is quite a team, which you probably couldn't have headhunted if you had tried, but which I suspect reflects the enormous talent you can find in rural areas if you just look.
I am copying and pasting the text of the press release below for anyone who wishes to run with it for their own blog, local paper, news site, council etc to show just what can be done in rural areas, whatever the hype would have you believe. We continue to be as open as possible with the info we are putting out there (unlike others) so let us know if we have overlooked anything that you need to know.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 1st December 2011
Residents in North Lancashire launch Fibre Optic Broadband Company
An exciting community initiative, initially across eight parishes of rural Lancashire, to deliver a world class hyperfast fibre optic broadband network is being launched at The Storey in Lancaster on 15th December at 2pm.
Broadband has become essential for every sector of the community and increasingly important for our daily lives. Government and the large telecom companies plan to upgrade broadband to ‘superfast’ but not in many rural areas, where limited internet and mobile coverage affects businesses, homes and farms. The difficulty is reaching economic viability when private companies’ costs are so high and subscriber numbers are low.
Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) plans to lower the costs, both in the building of the broadband network and to the end user, by using local contractors and the community. “Farmers and local people have the skillset we need for this project. They know the land and people, and have been offering to work for shares, which means the digging for the core network can start early in 2012. We expect this to be completed in approximately 3 months, weather permitting, and then we will begin to connect the first users,” stated Professor Forde. Shares will be available from 15th December - further information and application forms will be available on the B4RN.org.uk website on that date.
B4RN’s plans are for a hyperfast broadband network fit for purpose far into this century.
A 1 gigabit (1000Mbps) connection will ensure that any interaction with the Internet will be quick and easy. Television, films, cheap phone and video calls over the Internet, the ability to extend local mobile phone networks to cover black-spots, local security, telehealth and medicine applications - all will become possible. B4RN will be initially be providing the broadband connection and VoIP telephony, with further services to follow as the network rolls out over the coming years.
Barry Forde, B4RN Chief Executive, will explain the project and launch the share offer in the company to raise the necessary capital required over the next few months. Representatives from the first phase communities of Melling, Arkholme, Quernmore, Abbeystead, Wray, Tatham, Roeburndale, Wennington and Caton with Littledale will be at the event as well as local dignitaries and celebrities.
B4RN is a community benefit company, owned by its shareholders. Income made will be re-invested in the service and spent within the communities the company serves. The shares are being made available under the EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) that offers 30% tax relief, with a minimum investment of £100 and maximum of £20,000.
B4RN hopes to attract the support of local, national and international investors, whilst remaining a truly community-run business, bringing fast, future-proof, sustainable Internet access to the rural uplands, for this generation and those to come, leaving a lasting legacy for the area.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. B4RN has been more than three years in the planning and development stage. The B4RN project will bring a state of the art, fibre optic broadband connection to the rural communities long before most of the urban areas. Rural Lancashire plans to be a world leader in “hyperfast”.
2. Professor Barry Forde (B4RN Chief Executive) is a networking expert with many years experience of designing, building and operating high performance networks. He was responsible for the CLEO network which provides connectivity to over 1000 schools and public sector sites across Lancashire and Cumbria. Bios are available for Professor Forde and the Management team http://tinyurl.com/6tpdkmt
3. The full business plan is available on the website, along with details of the pricing and payment structure for local residents and businesses. http://tinyurl.com/895uvdx This includes bonuses of free install and connection for 12 months with a £1500 investment, three further free months for early bird investors, and payment in shares for involvement in the deployment of the project.
4. A target of 662 registrations of interest were required for a green light and this was passed in just three months. The project moves one step closer to implementation with the launch of the Share Issue. “The phased network will be built by the community over three years for the seven phases. Now we have passed our target of over 700 registrations of interest in investment and taking a service at £30/month for 1Gbps, we can proceed to raise the capital required for Phase 1,” said Barry Forde.
5. B4RN will initially provide internet and telephony with further services in the future. Each home will have a battery backup so telephony over the fibre means landline connections are no longer required.
6. Christine Conder, a farmer’s wife and rural broadband pioneer, who successfully dug and installed the first rural fibre cable to her farm in Wray in 2009, knows it can be done and sums up the enthusiasm and ethos of B4RN, “If we don’t do it ourselves then it will never get done, so B4RN is the answer, let’s all JFDI.”
7. Photos (to be accredited to B4RN) are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/b4ruralnorth
Professor Barry Forde, Barry@B4RN.org.uk
Christine Conder, Chris@B4RN.org.uk
Lindsey Annison, Lindsey@B4RN.org.uk
Telephone: 01524 221588 or mobile: 07952 503253 / 07967 670759
JFDI (Just Farmers Doing IT)