Village builds its own fibre network after BT says 'no'

With providers deciding it would be too expensive to provide Lyddington with a high-speed broadband network, the village's residents decided to build their own.

fibre broadband

A village in the Midlands that was told a super-fast broadband fibre network would be too "impractical" to install has responded in a novel fashion it has done the job itself.

Residents of Lyddington in Rutland, Leicestershire were among the 2.5 million homes in the UK currently denied broadband speeds of even 2Mbps because of network infrastructure issues. And with BT having decided that installing fibre-optic lines in the area wouldn't be cost-effective, the village's residents decided to take matters into their own hands.

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The Rutland Telecom scheme, a joint venture between the local firm reselling BT's broadband and Lyddington's residents, raised 37,000 and set up its own network.

"As a local IT company we were constantly getting enquiries about high-speed broadband and decided to see how this could be provided," Rutland Telecom managing director told the BBC. "We found that any company could do, on a smaller scale, what Carphone Warehouse has done and take over BT's network we could utilise parts of BT's existing infrastructure and supply next generation broadband services via community funded projects."

He added: "Rutland Telecom is now delighted to have developed the first UK Fibre to the Cabinet broadband offering in a rural location, bringing a unique service to an otherwise technologically-impoverished community."

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The process still required the involvement of BT's telephone network spin-off Openreach to supply fibre-optic cable to a street cabinet in the village, a process that took two years and required the intervention of telecoms regulator Ofcom.

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Now, from not even getting 2Mbps speeds, the 50 homes that have thus far signed up are now basking in connection speeds of up to 40Mbps. Rutland Telecom is charging 30 per month for line rental, broadband and all UK phone calls, and says it should be able to pay back investors in a few years.

BT said it had been delighted to help Rutland Telecom. However, it did urge the firm to make the network available to other service providers to avoid a "local monopoly".

The firm says it has already been approached by 40 other rural community groups to help assess whether a similar solution is possible in their area, with projects elsewhere in Leicestershire and Wales reportedly close to being launched.

The affair does cast serious doubt over the Government's pledge to provide all UK homes with a minimum connection speed of 2Mbps by 2012, and at least 24Mbps by 2020. With so much of the work needing to be done falling to commercial firms, the stumbling block of cost-effectiveness is proving very difficult to overcome, with community solutions seemingly the only viable solution unless more public money is made available.

"The 'digital divide' has become one of the major social and business issues of our time. Investing in high speed broadband could be the key to stimulating rural economies everywhere so people can remain in the countryside to live and work," Lewis said.

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