Rutland Village Builds Own Fast Broadband

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Stephen Fry cheers as Rutland Telecom brings fibre to Lyddington – a village BT refused to serve with fibre

Community-run Rutland Telecom has brought fast broadband services have reached the Rutland village of Lyddington, which was off BT’s plans for rural broadband.

Lyddington has become the best-connected village in Britain, after Rutland Telecom raised £37,000 to add its own a cabinet to the BT network, offering VDSL2 services to residents, averaging 25Mbps (around ten times the UK average)  to residents of the village which has been described as part of the “land that Digital Britain forgot” – part of the 30 precent of the country which has no prospect of fast broadband.

Stephen Fry hails Rutland Telecom

Work begins on Lyddington's new cabinet
Work begins in Lyddington

The news has been welcomed by campaigners for better broadband in Britain. “It has always been a frustration that fast, reliable broadband service has always been hardest for those who most benefit, commented actor Stephen Fry, who went to school in Rutland’s county town of Uppingham, “those in the countryside far from metropolitan and urban areas whose use of full Internet services can not only revitalise rural areas but also do considerable good to the environment, allowing people and businesses to work with so much less travel.”

It also fits the tradition of independence of the smallest historic county in England: “I’m old enough to remember the great postal strike of 1970 or 71, when Rutland issued its own postage stamps,” said Fry. “This is a far more important step.. I am fantastically impressed by the enterprise, initiative and technical savvy of Rutland Telecom and wish them well here in Uppingham and in the wider UK beyond.”

The new cabinet was installed in around six hours and conects to the BT exchance using fibre, using the existing BT-owned copper to reach users in the village, a so-called “fibre to the cabinet” (FTTC) solution. It provides a “full metallic path” pure IP network with no copper link back to the telephone exchange, which Rutland Telecom says is a first in the UK. the first time this has been done in the UK. The cabinet uses VDSL2 equipment from Zhone Technologies.

Rutland hopes the model can be replicated elsewhere, thanks to legislation which allows small companies to use parts of the BT copper wire network to supply fast broadband to individuals and businesses – a process known as “subloop unbundling”. BT’s BT’s own plans to extend broadband will reach some rural areas, for intance the South West of England but they are limited to areas where the service can pay for itself in BT’s terms

“As a local IT company we were constantly getting enquiries about high-speed broadband and decided to see how this could be provided,” said Dr David Lewis, founder and managing director of Rutland Telecom. “We found that by exploiting telecoms legislation we could utilise parts of BT’s existing infrastructure and supply next generation broadband services via community funded projects.”

Digital divide damages British businss

Lyddington's new broadband speed
Lyddington's new burst of speed

“The ‘digital divide’ has become one of the major social and business issues of our time,” said Dr Lewis. “Investing in high speed broadband could be the key to stimulating rural economies everywhere so people can remain in the countryside to live and work.” The £37,000 was raised form Lyddington’s 200 homes and offices, and investors will get their stake back over three yearsm, by paying them an annual gross return of ten percent per year.

Rutland Telecom plans to repeat its success, said the company’s Mark Melluish, director and local loop  consultant: “We have now received approaches from many areas around the UK following our success in Lyddington and we are progressing the deployment of more street cabinets in Wales, Yorkshire and Leicestershire using private finance models.”

“The work that Rutland Telecom has done in Lyddington shows it is possible for rural communities to receive next generation access broadband across the UK and is an important step forward which should be congratulated,” said Dr Charles Trotman, head of rural business development for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), who officially opened the broadband service. “One of the casualties of the General Election is the measure to impose a 50p levy on phone lines to fund the expansion of broadband to remote areas. The CLA will lobby the next Government to make sure that broadband is extended to those businesses and communities who are now at a disadvantage in an on-line world.”

“Large parts of rural Britain still lack a broadband connection or receive a very poor service. As a result thousands of businesses in the countryside are at an unfair disadvantage to those in cities.”

Fast broadband could become an election issue, with both the Conservatives and Labour making promises to hook people up to the Internet at “super-fast” speeds, but critics have pointed the big gap – how this is paid for.

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