Community broadband networks are springing up in towns and villages across the UK, bringing broadband connectivity and services to areas the telcos have shied away from, the Community Broadband Network will report this week at the DTI Summit event on Wednesday 2nd March.
The “Springing Up All Over” report shows an explosion of community broadband activity across the UK, with a total of 550 broadband initiatives, many in rural areas and under 2 years old. Nearly all are using low cost wireless technology and license exempt spectrum. Forty percent of these initiatives are social enterprises, meeting community needs and building social capital with dogged determination, business acumen, voluntary commitment and a willingness to share and learn.
Around half the projects show a small number of users only (less than 50) with many projects still being in development rather than ‘live’, but 40% have between 50 and 500 users, and 9% have from 500 to over 1000 users. It would seem that around 50,000 households and SMEs are currently using these types of broadband services throughout the country – approx 1% of UK broadband users.
There is a strong ethos of digital inclusion within these projects, and many are developing innovative content and services specifically to meet the needs of their communities, ranging from video on demand, community TV and radio, voice over internet, online IT support, video diaries or blogs, to online shopping, and even maggot racing!
Barriers to development include funding, internet backhaul costs and availability, user support and technical development, but communities are solving these problems with imagination and innovative solutions.
The Community Broadband Network recommends that national and regional government seek to rectify the lack of investment in and support for these projects which are adding tremendous value to the broadband picture in the UK. The development of local strategic partnerships, access to backhaul, and funding could all help to increase the benefits that these initiatives are bringing to the UK.
Malcolm Corbett, CEO of CBN said, “We found many more projects than we expected and we know that we haven’t found them all. Our research shows that small businesses and community-led social enterprises can have an impact on broadband development providing services in rural areas, and for sections of the community the big players find hard to reach. It also shows that a lot more communities are developing wireless broadband services than the government and OFCOM realise.”
The DTI sponsored conference on 2nd March will feature Nigel Griffiths MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Construction, Small Business and Enterprise, Malcolm Corbett and Lindsey Annison of CBN, Antony Walker, CEO of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, Vivien Woodell CEO of the Phone Co-op, Brian Condon, CEO of the Access to Broadband Campaign, Nigel Heriz-Smith, formerly Deputy Director of Broadband Policy at the DTI, plus speakers from community networks around the country.
Notes for editors
1. The Community Broadband Network is a UK support organisation set up with funding from the DTI, DEFRA, the Countryside Agency, Co-operative Action and Cisco Systems. CBN has recently completed the first survey into community network activity in the UK.
2. The “Springing Up All Over” event is to be held at the DTI Conference Centre at 1, Victoria Street, London on 2nd March from 12.30-5.30pm. The full programme can be found on www.ABCampaign.org.
3. A PDF of the report can be downloaded from the CBN website www.broadband-uk.coop
4. CBN will be holding further events with key partners to analyse the impact of the survey results, and discuss ways forward.
CBN: Malcolm Corbett 0208 318 4506 M.Corbett@broadband-uk.coop
ABC: Lindsey Annison 07967 670759 firstname.lastname@example.org
Event organisers: Conference-Events.biz 01937 541 553 Freephone 0800 197 8819
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