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Hampshire village gets wireless broadband

SEEDA pilot project shows the way for more rural partnerships


Homes and businesses in Kingsclere have high-speed Internet access using a novel wireless technology from FDM Broadband after a successful community broadband campaign that is being hailed as a model for other rural villages in the south of England.


FDM Broadband, an Internet service provider specialising in bringing wireless broadband to rural areas, launched its service in the Hampshire village of Kingsclere after its Parish Council secured a £15,000 grant from the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) to help subsidise the installation.


Villagers had initially hoped to petition BT to upgrade the local telephone exchange for ADSL, but decided to concentrate on FDM Broadband's wireless alternative after it became clear that they would have trouble finding the 500 subscribers that BT required before upgrading the local telephone exchange.


"Kingsclere's population is just 3,500, so BT's trigger level was unrealistically high," said Steve Allam, a local businessman who led the Kingsclere Broadband Campaign. "Rural businesses are falling behind their urban competitors in information technology, and we can't afford to wait a couple of years to get broadband. We had to act fast, and FDM told us they could begin installation if just 50 people registered their interest."


"Wireless broadband is a bit more expensive to install than ADSL, but with the help of the SEEDA grant, we have been able to subsidise the infrastucture costs so that individual subscribers' installation costs are competitive with what people in urban areas are paying for cable or ADSL broadband," explained Parish Councillor Peter Woodman.


"With more than 100 registered prospective subscribers, Kingsclere is well ahead of he national rate of ADSL takeup, which currently stands at around six percent of households," said Woodman. "Demand in rural areas is clearly no lower than it is in the cities; it's just less densely concentrated, which makes providing the infrastructure less attractive to the service providers. But why should rural businesses and businesses be left behind?"


"The big fixed-line providers have been reluctant to expand their infrastructure into many rural areas and have been very ambivalent in their dealings with rural communities like this one," said FDM Broadband managing director Karl Crossman. "If we want to avoid a major digital divide emerging in this country, wireless broadband is going to be essential to bringing broadband to the ten to 20 percent of the population who live in remote rural areas where other infrastructure is unavailable."


In theory, broadband can be delivered via cable television or specially-adapted telephone lines known as ADSL, but these services are not widely available in rural areas. The Government has urged rural villages to adopt a "DIY approach" to bringing broadband to their communities.



The Rt Hon Sir George Young MP, who has championed rural broadband provision in Parliament, is enthusiastic about the first community broadband project in his constituency: "It's an excellent example of what can be achieved when local broadband campaigns work in partnership with local government, the regional development gencies and innovative companies in the private sector," said Sir George before officially activating the Kingsclere network. I congratulate all those in Kingsclere who have put this project together it is an excellent example to other villages who have found that that their exchange is unlikely to be enabled by BT or who would prefer wireless to the other available broadband technologies."


Kingsclere worked with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Wired Wessex to help expedite the SEEDA grant.


"Wireless communities are an excellent solution in rural areas where it is difficult for individual businesses to access broadband via a landline," said SEEDA's Broadband Manager, Steve Coppins. "Such communities are becoming commonplace as eparate pockets of demand club together throughout some of the more remote areas of the South East. SEEDA, with the help and support of local authorities, and other partners in the region, will continue working towards its objective of making broadband available for all businesses, regardless of size and location."


"With plenty of experience in this field, and our contacts, we were able to 'fast track' the application and secure the SEEDA funding," said Emma Shears, Executive Manager of Wired Wessex. "We are currently working with other local authorities offering a support and consultancy service to local residents and businesses in Hampshire."


Notes To Editors


About FDM Broadband


FDM Broadband is an Internet Service Provider specialising in providing wireless broadband to rural communities. A privately-held company based in Hungerford, Berkshire, FDM is currently rolling out its wireless broadband service to homes and businesses located in rural areas of Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire that do not have access to ADSL or cable broadband.


FDM's wireless broadband service is currently available in Aldbourne, Baydon, Compton, Kingsclere, Kintbury, Lambourn, Hungerford, and Ramsbury. FDM is planning expansion into other rural villages and is developing a franchise model. People interested in getting high-speed access in their area should register with FDM on the web at www.fdmbroadband.net or by calling 0800 587 7897. Anyone interested in taking up a franchise should contact Karl Crossman on 0800 587 7897.


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