Why is broadband important?
The Digital Britain report’s primary conclusion was that broadband should now be recognised as the 4th utility and as important to daily life as water, electricity, gas and telephone and set a Universal Service Commitment(USC) of no less than 2 Mbps. Indeed it is essential for our economy being the biggest contributor to our country’s income now exceeding industrial production or the service industries. To our younger generation they could not dream of being without internet access more than an hour, being even more essential than the mobile phone, and this is increasing so of all of us. For some it allows them to work from home; for the less mobile/disabled it can mean online shopping and banking. Public spending is under close scrutiny and many councils realise as most government services are moving rapidly online it’s critical that now everyone has access. For many, broadband now means entertainment through You tube and the iplayer dominating internet usage as demand hungry applications drives the thirst for more speed so we can all enjoy the future of media via this new medium. Broadcast media via terrestrial or satellite gives way to media on demand over the internet.
25% of North Yorkshire’s residents suffer from connections below the USC of 2Mbps about 150,000 households and represent the ‘Digital Divide’. 95% of the land area has poor or no broadband is a frightening statistic. Indeed in the most remote rural areas representing 1-2% of the population presently have nothing or very intermittent broadband or 9000 households. Rural North Yorkshire has some of the lowest population densities next to the western isles of Scotland. Not-spots can be anywhere, from rings of villages further than 5km around market towns throughout the Vale of York, to most of the Dales, Wolds, and the Moors. It essential for these areas to survive with loss of rural services in school, post offices and libraries which can be largely mitigated by good broadband and inclusion of the whole community in getting online otherwise our rural areas will become nothing more than dormitories. Good broadband is absolutely essential as farming goes through diversification and keeping business, therefore employment and communities alive. 30% of UK now work or run small business from home saving fuel and keeping services local.
We are lucky in North Yorkshire to have a far sighted council that created NYnet to serve broadband to public building including many of our most rural primary schools. This opens opportunities to ‘piggy back’ that community off the public service network. Our pioneering projects using this idea has taken the interest of policy makers
The Digital Britain report has resulted in the creation of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to tackle the ‘Final Third’. These are those folks that traditional telecoms are unlikely to reach with fibre technology because it’s uneconomic. BDUK has been given the job of making 90% of the population of the UK able to receive superfast broadband >24Mbs by 2015. In North Yorkshire the government’s pilot area and first to start roll out with 700 cabinets to be enabled has committed to bring High speed broadband to 90% of homes and at least 2mbps to the last 10%. This should mean almost all villages with cabinets and small rural exchanges will receive FTTC. Faster technology means shorter range. Fibre to the cabinet brings it closer and will hopefully mean any village with a green BT box can look forward to fibre. But still for the outlying farms and smaller communities more than 2.5km from their box or exchange or with poor cabling the digital divide grows rapidly and we can expect that trend to continue at ever increasing rate but it’s difficult to judge where they might be until BT announce their plans.
At CLANNET we believe through the success of its networks that the final 10percent can be quite cheaply be enabled with superfast, sustainable and scalable broadband for an average of £300 per subscriber using wireless solutions in a rooftop network using farm buildings and other vantage points as distribution nodes. We call it Community broadband.
What is Community Broadband?
- Firstly it’s about people getting together to realise their neighbours are having the same problems as themselves with slow, intermittent broadband. Then an effective campaign spreads this awareness through the community creating the will to do something about it. This is often in the form of an ‘expressions of interest’ in an alternative, such as a community broadband service.
- Secondly it’s about finding finance or raising a small amount from a core set of investors, there are as many business models as communities. It’s often about finding and working with a Community Internet Service Provider (CISP) like ourselves to get it built.
- Thirdly it’s about supporting its users and investing and keeping the project sustainable and be able to keep up with the growth in bandwidth demand running at 50% per annum or 1000% growth in 5 years time!
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