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B4RN Celebrate After Raising £3m for Rural Gigabit FTTH Rollout

Monday, July 8th, 2019 (5:20 pm) - Score 1,289
b4rn tidy well labelled chamber

Rural focused UK ISP B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) has successfully hit their £3 million crowdfunding target via Triodos Bank (here), which will help to support the on-going rollout of a community built and funded 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband network across remote parts of several counties.

As a community benefit society (i.e. B4RN can’t be bought by a commercial operator and any profits are distributed back into the community) they have so far deployed over 3,000km of fibre optic cable across rural parts of Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Yorkshire. Overall B4RN has connected around 6,000 homes (live customers) and the new funding may enable them to reach 20,000 over the next few years.

In keeping with this the operator has been busy making good use of the Government’s £67m business connectivity orientated Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) and its new residential focused £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme, although this has required them to quickly ramp-up their operations (i.e. if they don’t then the schemes could expire before they’re able to complete all of the planned work).

The challenge in all of this is that building “full fibre” networks remains an inherently slow process, particularly when dealing with community efforts and organising volunteers. Meanwhile many of their builds require the vouchers to be aggregated and that means B4RN has to get lots of Aggregated Pre Registered Packages (APRP) approved, usually before they can start encouraging local people to sign-up for vouchers (this takes a long time).

Sadly the vouchers only get paid AFTER the property is connected and live, which of course leaves B4RN to fund the build cost until that stage is completed and this is where the crowdfunding raise will be able to do the most good (i.e. giving them enough funding to get moving without having to wait around for the admin side).

We are in a different world to the one we used to inhabit, it’s no longer a question of money but instead it’s about delivery,” said Barry to ISPreview.co.uk during May 2019 (here). The £3m announcement was actually made last week (here) but for some reason B4RN didn’t let us know, although credits to Thinkbroadband for spotting it.

The funding drive remains open and there’s a possible maximum capital raise of £5 million. It will be interesting to see how close B4RN can get to that figure. If we had any advice for B4RN (not that they need it), we would recommend raising their 1Gbps monthly rental a little from £30 as that could otherwise start to act as drag on their financial model.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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8 Responses
  1. Avatar chris conder

    The community and volunteers are proving they can deliver into remote areas that other telcos can’t reach, so I don’t know how you can say it is ‘inherently slower’ Mark, they are doing the hardest bits after all, and long may they continue their sterling work, going the extra mile. Power to the people.

    • It’s a generalisation, you may be reading too much into it. I said “inherently slow” not “inherently slower” Chris. Full fibre is comparatively slow to deploy and that is its nature, nothing to do with B4RN and not a bad thing per se. Fair point on the slow vs no FTTH at all balance though.

    • Avatar CarlT

      So this nonsense is why you can be so readily ignored: you either have no idea what you’re talking about or a propagandist.

      Comparing deploying FTTP in rural areas with hundreds of metres between properties with anything else broadband related it’s slow.

      You remind me of Goebbels with these ridiculous comments. Tell me how much people power it would take to deliver in areas where you don’t have free wayleaves and almost complete soft digs else stop writing publicly on things you haven’t a clue about.

      You’re considered a voice of B4RN. You aren’t doing the side any favours.

    • Avatar Gadget

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/06/winners-of-the-2019-connected-britain-broadband-awards-confirmed.html

      “Final Mile Award
      Openreach
      Britain’s incumbent broadband network operator, Openreach, won the Final Mile Award for bringing enhanced broadband services to hard to reach customers in remote areas of Scotland, with some customers seeing their average connection speed improve 2,000 times over, from 0.5Mbps – 1Gbps.”

    • Avatar Joe

      Godwin’s law Carl I’d expect better!

      I think Mark is right wrt the £30 charge; even allowing for trying to maximise uptake this seems a risk.

      I wonder if it is realistic to ramp up as much as they need given the tight market for those with the skills to do the work. They could be left in the lurch if they get their timing wrong.

  2. Avatar chris conder

    Mark, I meant the bit about ‘particularly with volunteers etc’ being slow/slower. I think they knock the spots off most telcos. I was just sticking up for them. 😉

    I don’t know anything about urban areas CarlT. I leave that to experts like you. My guess is they already think they have fibre. I doubt you could raise the community spirit and grit to do what our fantastic community have done. Have you tried?

    Feel free to ignore me, I don’t mind a bit. You remind me of someone too, can’t think who it is right now. I know many astroturfers. I don’t usually respond, it is easy to scroll and forget their names sorry.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Yes, Chris, I have tried. It delivered commercial FTTC to a previously uncommercial area, and brought HFC cable to about 10,000 premises thanks to a combination of lobbying Openreach, council and MP alongside driving take up.

      With that I called it ‘mission accomplished’ – the best outcome a community like ours could achieve had been achieved.

      The astroturfing accusation is pretty old. I strongly suspect you don’t know many astroturfers but you do seem to see them everywhere. Anyone who cares to can easily find out who I am and who I’ve worked for and would note that I have only worked for competitors of BT / Openreach, not BT themselves.

  3. Avatar FibreBubble

    The B4RN spokesman’s Fibre To The Forum trumpet blowing / BT hater campaign is certainly well above any other operator’s efforts. Forum fluff to customer numbers is unprecedented in the industry.

    It is the financials that will be more interesting.

    It’s not £30 subscription, it’s £25 cos of VAT and the previous business plans have brought losses rather than generate any of the projected profits.

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