Faster rural broadband connection was promised by all major political parties before the election, but if you can’t wait for the politicians to deliver-or don’t believe they will-there’s now a way to take matters into your own hands.
The Rutland village of Lyddington has forcibly bucked the ‘not-spot’ trend described by Prince Charles as ‘broadband desert’, a problem that isolates about 20% of homes in the countryside. When the big telecoms companies refused to install the fibre-optic cables required for faster internet speeds in the village, as there weren’t enough households to produce a significant profit, 11 Lyddington residents raised £3,000 each.
This allowed the 200 family strong community to benefit from the ‘fastest internet connection in the countryside’ by setting up their own telecommunications business, Rutland Telecom. Now, Lyddington homes can receive broadband speeds of up to 40Mbps, allowing families to watch films on the internet and businesses to connect quickly.
Rutland Telecom is charging £30 a month for the line rental, broadband and UK phonecalls and should be able to pay back investors in a matter of years. Dr David Lewis, managing director, says that Lyddington is the first village to get the technology, produced by installing the cable to a ‘cabinet’ in the village, that is then able to use existing lines to connect to different homes. ‘We have now received approaches from many areas following our success, and we’re progressing the deployment of more street cabinets in Wales, Yorkshire and Leicestershire using private-finance models.’
The CLA, which has campaigned for improved rural broadband since 2002, is supporting Rural Broadband Partnership, a new initiative that helps individual homes, communities and businesses build propositions from the ground up and puts visitors to the website (www.community-broadband.co.uk) in touch with their local community-broadband project.
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The CLA also has its own campaign, Final Third First. They claim that roughly a third of the country will not have its connectivity requirements met by the market by 2017: ‘This 30+% of the UK, who will not get a high-speed connection capable of delivering next-generation internet, as well as the many other services and applications that will be possible, is known as the “Final Third”, a term coined in the Digital Britain Report.’
One casualty of the election is the 50p levy on phonelines to fund the expansion of broadband to remote and rural areas. The CLA plans to lobby the new Government to ensure broadband is extended to those communities that are now at a disadvantage in a world where, increasingly, the internet is regarded as the fourth vital utility service.