Fast fibre: A community shows the way

Fast fibre: A community shows the way


Lancashire leads way on fast fibre connection

How fast is your home broadband? Seventy to 80 Mbps if you're one of the few
with the very fastest fibre broadband services? Perhaps 10Mbps if you've got
an average connection, maybe under 2Mbps if you live some miles from your
nearest exchange. So how would you fancy a 500Mbps download scheme?

That is what I've seen on Harry Ball's quite ancient computer - not in the
heart of London but in a village in rural Lancashire. Arkholme is hardly a
teeming metropolis but Harry is one of the first local residents to be hooked
up to the B4RN community broadband network.

After deciding that they were never likely to get a fast broadband connection
from one of the major suppliers, a group of local people across this sparsely
populated area decided that sitting around moaning about it was not an
option. Instead they began a DIY effort, digging channels across the fields
and laying fibre optic cables.

They have exploited all sorts of local expertise - from the Lancaster
University professor who is an expert in computer networks to the farmer's
wife who has just retired from a career in IT support. The cooperation of
local landowners has been vital - free access to fields has made it much
cheaper to roll out the network. BT and other companies which have to dig up
the country roads to lay fibre networks reckon it can cost as much as �10,000
to hook up one rural home - the people at B4RN reckon they can bring that
down to around �1,000.

And people like Harry and Susan Ball are now entering the superfast broadband
era. The retired couple told me they knew little about computers and had got
used to the fact that it was almost impossible on their slow connection to
watch video or use Skype. Now Harry is able to watch the iPlayer streaming in
HD, and Susan has become a B4RN volunteer, helping to dig trenches for the

But, after raising half a million pounds from locals who bought shares on the
promise of a fast connection, the project now needs to move to the next
stage. In the Arkholme village hall this afternoon, B4RN is holding an open
day, inviting anyone to drop in and test the broadband connection on their
phones or computers.

The hope is that many will sign up to the �30 per month service, but that
some will also buy shares in B4RN. Another �1.5m is needed if the full 265KM
network is to be rolled out. That sounds ambitious - but having spent 24
hours watching the volunteers digging trenches, blowing fibre and learning a
process called fusion splicing I can see they are a very determined bunch.

As Barry Forde, the networking expert who is the chief executive of B4RN
explained to me, fast broadband is not a luxury now, whether in the town or
the country. "Farmers are being told they have to fill in forms online," he
says. "If you haven't got broadband you are severely disadvantaged."

And despite the �530m government money to bring fast broadband to rural
Britain, many communities face a long wait to get connected. In the meantime,
others may learn the lesson from B4RN - if you want it in a hurry, just get
out and start digging.

This is quote common in Sweden as well. People living in the countryside are already used to cooperating, they do private road maintenance cooperatively (5-10 houses sharing an access road to the closest major road), so for them it's not that different to also do cables. Usually tractors or equivalent is already available, so getting someone within the community to do the work is not that hard.

Here is an example (In swedish)


"For people living in the country side getting access to fiber within reasonable time there is a need for you, neighbours and friends to join into a 'economic association'. With our help you build your own area network to the closest network connection point.


Translating it into english works surprisingly well, for your convenience here goes:

Byalag model-it works
Step 1 Examine and register interest
Investigate whether there is interest in your neighbors to join the broadband. Some may have the knowledge and contacts that may be useful. A basic principle is that more households get together and build the area network (fiber) properties to be connected. In this way it is possible to drastically bring down the total connection cost of each property. When there are at least 30 interested, feel more, in an area you should submit an expression of interest to the municipality. Are you less, you should of course make an inquiry anyway.

Step 2-Establish a cooperative
In order to build an area of ​​the village community concept you must use an economic association. In many cases, there is already an economic association established that can be used, such as a village community. If a cooperative is missing, you must create one for this purpose, ie. building broadband. The compound can be dismantled after the construction is completed, if desired. The association shall have a chairman and a contact person for the project.

Step 3-Feasibility Study
You are doing a feasibility study to get an estimate on the cost of trenching and more. Assistance can be sought from the Leader.

Step 4-agreement with the municipality
Norkröpings municipality sign a contract with you. The feasibility study is approved, and a detailed planning undertaken by the municipality.

With the feasibility study as a basis, you can also determine how construction costs will be distributed between the members of the village community. Before ground work starts, everything should be clear about what should be done, who is present and all land contracts and permits are in place.

Step 5-Review existing agreements
Inform everyone in the village community to terminate existing contracts for Internet, television and telephone in time.

Step 6 Compare prices
Keep in mind that it is only digging work to be purchased because the remaining materials such as fiber cable, hoses, wells, etc. are supplied by us. Our planners are happy to help in this work.

Step 7 Start building
Come supply all the materials needed for you. Then begin digging. Our recommendation is that you take the help of our planners even at this stage. It creates good conditions for it to go as smoothly as possible. Cost for the designer paid for by the municipality.

Step 8-Inspection and connection
Once the works are complete, they inspected by the municipality or other authority.

Step 9 Use your new broadband
Connect your home network to the fiber network and select service providers.

Step 10 fee for connection
The fee is according to today's current broadband tariff set by the Municipal Council of the Municipality of Norrköping.

Examples of contracts and documents

Rules of the Association
Registration with the Building and Planning
Project Documentation
Agreement between the union and the respective owners
Land Contract