Thursday, 15 March 2012

Work set to begin on B4RN rural broadband project

Cables for the B4RN network will be laid using mole ploughs, which cause minimal damage to land. Photo: B4RN
The community-owned Fibre To The Home project Broadband 4 the Rural North has passed another major milestone with news that work will begin on laying down cables at the end of this month.

The Early Bird share offer in the company ended on 29th February and B4RN CEO Professor Barry Forde has announced that sufficient shares have now been sold to commence the digging which will begin at the event on 31st March.

"We are delighted with the response to the share issue, which has surpassed even our highest
hopes," said Professor Forde, a networking expert with many years experience of designing, building and operating high performance networks.

"This proves that the appetite for investment and support of such community owned broadband projects is alive and well, and that solving the problem of rural broadband for the next generation is prompting people to invest even in times of economic hardship."

As we reported last year, 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.

The local community will be celebrating the start of the dig when local farmers John and Andrew Metcalfe break the first sod at Jubilee Tower, Quernmore, marking the milestone with a grand opening ceremony,tea and cake.

The Metcalfes are just some of the many farmers who will be laying the ducting in order to buy shares in B4RN, which has been three years in the planning and development stage and whose share offer was launched last year.

“This will make a major difference to our community, and to me and my young family," enthuses Andrew Metcalfe. "As they grow they will be able to use the technology that children elsewhere take for granted, and we will be able to diversify our business through it."

The launch is being held at a local beauty spot that is half way along the first of the core routes. B4RN say the dig will progress out from either side of the start point, and all 13 core routes should be live in three months, weather permitting. Subsidiary routes and spurs to properties will branch out from that.

There has been so much enthusiasm in the plan that the management committee is considering whether to bring forward the timescale for later phases of the build.



B4RN is the only UK community offering gigabit broadband, meaning that consumers will have the opportunity to work, live and play faster and more efficiently than most places in the world. This forward-thinking, fully-fibred approach has been recognised as the optimal solution to the digital divide, and will encourage regeneration of this deeply rural area, bringing new jobs, opportunities and revenue to rural Lancashire.

The support of the local community has been key to B4RN's success to date, and there are
many people and businesses within the area who will be earning their shares through sweat and labour as well as investing their money.

"This is where we can reduce the costs that a traditional telecommunications
company would face," explains Professor Forde, "by using local skills and knowledge, working directly with the community, and being a part of it.

"B4RN is a 100 per cent community project, with neighbours helping neighbours. The community spirit is strong in rural areas and B4RN is a showcase for that spirit."

Share ownership starts from £100, with 30% tax refunds available to anyone investing between £500 and £20,000 under the Government's EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme), which makes it an attractive proposition for all investors. £1500 ensures a Foundation Membership with additional bonuses such as a free connection and one year's free subscription to the gigabit service.

B4RN’s coverage area is close to the coast, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales,
making it an ideal base for weekend breaks, holidays and the chance to explore some of the
north of England's most beautiful tourist areas.

External investors can nominate a property within B4RN coverage area for the free connection, including holiday cottages.

• Full details of the share issue, including the business plan, are available on www.B4RN.org.uk along with maps of the coverage area and phases.

• The full business plan is available on the website, along with details of the pricing and payment structure for local residents and businesses at http://b4rn.org.uk/business-plan includes bonuses of free install and connection for 12 months with a £1500 investment and payment in shares for involvement in the deployment of the project.

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