A novel solution for rural broadband

There was a delightful story in the Guardian yesterday about how a church bell tower was used by a village to set up their own broadband network.

It was 4am on Thursday when Paull Taylor turned on BBC News to be greeted with a BT spokesman making grand promises about superfastbroadband in rural areas. The telecoms man was insisting his firm had not “exploited” £1.2bn of public funds – an accusation made by the Public Accounts Committee this week – and promising that most country-dwelling Britons would receive 2MB broadband by 2015. Despite the early hour, the 20-year-old electrician was lucid enough to provide a pithy response:

“Bollocks. Absolute bollocks. He said the process was ‘transparent’. ‘Thoroughly transparent’. And yet we ask them whether they’re going to get a cable to our house and they reply saying ‘oh, we can’t tell you’. Anyway, two megs is rubbish. Absolutely naff. Meaningless. You can’t do anything with two megs.”

(Helpful warning to commenters – if you repeat Paull Taylor’s colourful words, or even asterisk them, your comment will end up in moderation)

Fed up with waiting 20 minutes to download any email with an attachment, and cheesed off with not being able to stream the BBC’s iPlayer, Paull and his dad came up with an idea.

They bought an off-the-shelf radio transmitter and receiver for about £80 and, along with a neighbour, persuaded St Andrew’s, their local church in the village of Paull (where the young man got the unusual spelling of his name), to let them install the equipment on top of the bell tower.

After tapping into a nearby fibre optic cable, they were able to equip the church with a galloping internet connection. The church soon exploited this to turn their ad-hoc coffee shop into a cyber cafe.

Thus began the not-for-profit Hubb project. “Hubb because our postcode begins HU, and also because we want the church to become the hub of the community,” explained Simon, not a God-fearing man himself.

Tim Farron is also quoted in the article:

Every day I get a phone call or a letter from a constituent who is dealing with internet access that is non-existent. It makes it difficult for people to access services or run a business. Decent broadband is key to creating more well paid jobs and more investment and at the moment BT and the government’s broadband roll out is failing rural areas. Even many of those areas that are supposedly getting support are only going to get 2MBps download speed and less than 1MBps upload – this is completely inadequate; we need broadband infrastructure that is future proof, not a sticking plaster.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Be helpful if folk said where they are and what they get.
    I’m in rural south Norfolk and get about 3.1 Mbps.

  • Robert Wootton 10th Oct '13 - 6:17pm

    £32 bn was the original estimate for HS2 now £46bn. Original investment for superfast? broadband; £530 mn. Yet one third of the EU infrastructure budget is being invested in superfast broadband with a minimum speed of 30mbs.
    Britain should start introducing 30mbs broadband from the periphery of the UK and swap the budgeted amounts for HS2 and superfast broadband. Better still, scrap HS2.

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