B4MS Broadband for the Mint & Sprint is a community project to bring hyperfast internet to eight parishes in the South Lakes area of rural Cumbria: Longsleddale; Fawcett Forest; Whitwell & Selside; Skelsmergh & Scalthwhaiterigg; Lambrigg; Whinfell; Docker and Grayrigg – a total of 707 properties.
The hyperfast service will be delivered by Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) who use fibre to the door of each property, to deliver speeds of 1000 megabits per second (Mbps). Because B4RN is a not-for-profit organisation the community will need to raise funding to pay for the installation of the B4RN network.
B4RN is responsible for laying the fibre network, but individual households are responsible for getting the ducting from the boundary of their property to the wall of their house. Trained B4MS volunteers will be available to assist with this.
Why is this necessary?
- The copper network of telephone lines are old, unreliable and outdated. Fibre to the Property (FTtP) is the only way forwards and our area falls in the 2% of properties that fibre to the property will not cover for decades to come without B4RN
- Current internet speeds for many rural properties in the area are only around 2Mbps – barely adequate for email, let alone streaming TV, video or music. In addition, old copper telephone wires used to deliver the internet are unreliable; the internet frequently cuts out, especially during bad weather and BT struggles to effectively diagnose faults, meaning that some properties can be without internet for days at a time
- Even where properties have reasonable internet speeds of up to 70 Mbps – usually because they are close to a local cabinet that has been connected to superfast fibre – speeds can drop dramatically at peak times and are often inadequate when several members of a household are connected to the internet simultaneously
- Given the low density of properties in the area it is difficult for BT to make a good economic case for improving their current service. Even if this does happen we are unlikely to achieve speeds of above 28Mbps. This will be inadequate two or three years down the line and we will be back to square one
How do we make it happen?
Phase One – Getting the Project Green-lighted
- A series of local meetings have taken place, along with a leaflet drop to inform every household and business in the area of the benefits of connecting to the B4RN network
- A minimum of 60% of properties in the area will need to agree to be connected and to subscribe to the B4RN service
- We need to raise funds to build the network. This is done mostly by individuals buying shares in B4RN (though some grant money will also be available as the project progresses). Although the total cost of the network won’t be known until the route has been designed, which in turn is dependent upon which landowners give permission to cross their land, the current upper estimate for the build is £560,000
- We need to get permission from landowners in the area to lay B4RN ducting across their land in order to deliver hyperfast internet to every household that wants it
Phase Two – Planning the Route
- Once we have met the phase one conditions, B4RN engineers will map out the most suitable route for the fibre to take
- Landowners will be informed and B4RN volunteers will walk the route on the ground, talking to landowners to find the best route across their land
Phase Three – Digging
- Contractors will begin to lay the ducting, using mole ploughs and mini diggers. Access chambers will also need to be dug.
- B4RN will install two new roadside cabinets to handle connections to it’s network: one at Selside for properties in Longsleddale, Fawcett Forest, Whitwell & Selside, and Skelsmergh & Scalthwhaiterigg (435 houses); one in Greyrigg for homes in Lambrigg, Whinfell, Docker and Greyrigg (272 houses).
- Households will need to think about the best way to connect their property to the B4RN network, come along to Property/Hamlet Dig Planning workshops, Submit dig plans for verification then begin digging from wall to boundary with fields.
- It is hoped that digging will commence during summer 2018
Phase Four – Connection:
- B4RN volunteers will be trained to assist households to plan and make their connection to the B4RN network.
- Once the network goes live, householders will enjoy upload and download speeds of 1000mbps
How can I help B4RN for the Mint & Sprint to succeed?
- Express your interest in connecting to the B4RN network by filling out the online form here
- Spread the word to households who don’t know about B4RN yet and encourage them to sign up too
- Encourage local landowners, whose land we might need to cross in order to build the network, to fill out and return a wayleave.
- Buy shares in B4RN if you can afford to do so, as this provides capital to build our new network
- Volunteer your services, equipment or time to the project.
Remember, even if you do not want to subscribe to B4RN’s monthly service it is worth connecting your property to the network in case a connection is needed in future. A recent survey by the London School of Economics showed that 60% of house hunters wouldn’t even consider viewing a property with a poor internet connection. Connections to the B4RN network are cheaper and easier if they are made whilst the network is being built. If you say ‘no’ now then you risk paying a much higher connection fee if you change your mind in the future!