The division between the access to broadband internet connections of rural and urban populations has been recognized and targeted by governments in several different countries, but a do-it-yourself community project in the U.K. has shown a method for closing the gap as effective as it is different, Quartz reports.
An organization called “Broadband for the Rural North,” or B4RN, was founded in 2011 to bring fiber broadband to eight parishes through “self-installation.” Five years later, it has run 2,000 miles of cable to connect 40 parishes, with speeds as high as 1 gigabit per second. The average speed of home broadband in the U.K. is 28.9 Mbps, according to Ofcom statistics.
Households pay a connection fee of ₤150, and ₤30 monthly, with discounts for churches and schools, and higher fees for large businesses. The organization consists of volunteers and 14 paid staff members, who seek permission from farmers to dig trenches through their land, and then run the fiber cables.
“The main challenge [installing fiber optics] is bureaucracy; the government is not supportive, they all believe only the monopoly incumbent can deliver the service,” B4RN co-founder Chris Conder told Quartz. Conder also said the organization has created and purchased assets worth over ₤40 million by spending about one-tenth of that amount in community money. Conder and retired Lancaster professor Barry Forde were appointed to the Most Excellent Order of British Empire in 2015 for their efforts with B4RN.
Broadband access efforts like “community broadband” in the U.S. have proved controversial, but often effective in service delivery.