Cumbrian ‘Self-Dig’ Community Broadband Fibre Network Connects First Users

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Community broadband project brings fibre to Fell End after four years of work

A community-led superfast broadband project in Fell End, Cumbria is celebrating the first connections to its new £78,000, 15km fibre network after four years of fundraising, planning and engineering.

The Fell End Broadband project was initiated after it became clear that the village would not be covered by either BT’s commercial rollout of fibre or the government-subsidised Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) partnership in the county because the settlement was too far from the nearest telephone exchange.

‘Self-dig’ community broadband

BT Cumbria fibre broadbandLocal residents raised £6,000 to fund the scheme, making it eligible for a £53,000 grant from the government’s Rural Community Broadband Fund and £26,000 from the Prince’s Countryside Fund. An additional £2,000 was contributed by the Holhird Trust and £1,000 came from TalkTalk Digital Heroes.

BT provided network materials and manpower for the network, which will be open to other internet service providers as part of Openreach – now connecting 58 premises, including 28 businesses.

Among these are the Fat Lamb Country Inn and Restaurant, which says it will be able to provide more bandwidth and faster speeds to customers, and sign writing business Raven Graphics, which claims its business will benefit dramatically from speeds of up to 330Mbps.

“It’s been a long journey and this is a staggering achievement for everybody involved; I’m so pleased to hear such great feedback from the residents who are connected and am looking forward to the rest of the network going live shortly”, said Ravenstonedale Parish councillor and community broadband pioneer Libby Bateman.

Remote networking

Mobile operators have touted 4G as a way of connecting remote areas to superfast broadband. Last year, EE expanded its LTE service to the Northern Feels area of Cumbria at a cost of £1m.

The operator said it would have cost £10 million for a fixed network to cover the region, but Local MP Rory Stewart believes the Fell End ‘self-dig’ scheme is a workable model and shows how fibre could be delivered to the most remote places in the country at a “fraction” of what it would have cost the government to do alone.

“Now that we have done it once, I’d like us to repeat this model again and again across Cumbria and then across rural Britain,” he said. “It will provide the key to ensuring 100 per cent of Britain has the option of superfast broadband, and will make sure that we in Cumbria have the best rural coverage in Europe.”

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