• The Community Fibre initiative

    For the community, by the community - no profits going outside the community. Despite the upgrade in October 2012, the Langton Green BT Exchange is failing to provide many in the community with a stable broadband service approaching the much publicised “up to 8Mbps” advertised by BT, particularly to those who are distant from the Exchange. At times of high demand, in the late afternoons and evenings, many people are getting a barely usable service that is incapable of allowing rudimentary Skype calling with video, the streaming of films via iPlayer or the reliable remote access to online services.

    Our voracious appetite for bandwidth means the fibre-to-the-cabinet ("up to" 80 Mbps) promised today, will be the bottleneck of tomorrow. Peter Cochrane (ex CTO of BT) described FTTC as the "knot in the cable" when presenting evidence to the House of Lords communications committe on broadband. This is analogous to the alleged Bill Gates statement in 1981 that “640 KBytes of RAM should be enough for anyone”. Just imagine trying to work with that now, or even 10 years ago. BT has no plans for providing a FTTC solution for our more rural areas. The technology doesn't work there.

    This is the backdrop to the Community Fibre option that is being considered by B4RS. A group of parishes in North Lancashire and Cumbria (Broadband 4 the Rural North - B4RN) have already raised the funds themselves, dug many kilometres of fibre cable into the ground and are delivering a blisteringly fast service to their rural community, operated by the community, something that must be causing tension among the incumbent operators. It is designed to provide a hearty 1,000 Mbps service both up AND downstream. B4RS attended the launch and were duly impressed and are in regular contact with B4RN as their project evolves and expands.

    The concept is to establish a fibre-to-premises (FTTP) broadband network for our community. It would be connected to what is known as a dark fibre connection to the London INternet eXchange (LINX). The whole service would be run by a Community Benefit Society (CBS) that operates on a non-profit basis, with an asset lock to prevent commercial organisations from acquiring the network once it is built. Our Community Fibre initiative is currently building the business case and network design for presenting to the community and assessing the level of potential demand and energy to deliver. A road-show that demonstrates the benefits of such superfast broadband is being built and hopes to go on tour across 7 parishes in West Kent! In the meantime, here's a great video from the European FTTH Council which explains why fibre to the home is the ONLY solution worth considering for future proof broadband. FTTC is a mistake, which is a shame as that's what 91% of us in Kent are likely to be given by the BDUK project and Openreach. Providing the last 10% of properties with FTTP is possible with community power - it is not realistic without it.

    For those wishing to see a community fibre initiative in action, please visit the B4RN website: http://b4rn.org.uk/news