broadband Business

B4RN is a hero at ISPAs 2012

B4RN Broadband is award winner

B4RN broadband has just been announced as winner of the Internet Hero at the Internet Service Providers Association annual Awards bash. They were pretty clear winners in the vote that involved all of the ISPA council (moi included).

I’m not going to dwell on the other candidates or on the Internet villain. It is quite fair that the attention is all focussed on B4RN. B4RN has featured on the blog before. It is literally a ground breaking project.

B4RN is aiming to light up 1,500 or so properties across the 8 parish areas in the Lancashire/Cumbria borders at a cost £1.86M. That’s roughly over £1,200 per home/business. They are doing it with a combination of hard cash raised from investors and potential customers and “effort”. The “effort” is payment in kind – much of the total cost of the project is down to civil engineering works – digging the trenches in which the fibre is laid.

The 1,500 properties will need over 256km of fibre – that’s roughly £1,200 per property connected and just over £7 per metre. A very significant chunk of the cost of the project is going to be paid for in kind so the overall cost per property/per metre will come down from this. B4RN has enough cash to initially light up the core of the network – that’s 40,000 km through 8 parishes.

If you take a look at the Openreach website you can see their regulated tariff. For laying fibre the costs range between £25 a metre and £140 a metre.  Believe me this is not a “have a go at BT” post. BT has to gear for scale and is not used to having to gear for low cost.

These numbers suggest there is a clear need for competition in the local loop/Openreach space. The Openreach position will be that the market isn’t big enough for two players.

The people that got B4RN going are real heroes. The biggest problem that the UK has is that there aren’t enough of these heroes to go around. It’s not just guts you need it’s know how and it’s not just know how locally on the ground. It’s know how right the way up through the ranks of the civil service and up to government ministerial level.

BT will be whispering in the minister’s ear “do you really want to take the risk with critical national infrastructure by letting just anyone get involved”. That’s what’s happened with the BDUK rollout of funding for rural NGA broadband – we are left with BT and possibly Fujitsu though only in a few regions (that’s my understanding anyway).

I don’t have the right answers here. Hopefully B4RN’s winning of the ISPA Internet Hero award will give someone food for thought.
imagePhoto – Barry Forde and Chris Conder of B4RN proudly show off their award.

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

5 replies on “B4RN is a hero at ISPAs 2012”


We need a new approach the combines the best of the scale players with the commitment of local activism – not as cheerleaders, but as co-investors in the development of the new telecoms infrastructure. Congrats to B4RN for their continuing success 🙂

Thanks to everyone at ISPA, I have never met so many awesome people in the online world in one room before.
It was a fantastic do, and we were so proud to represent the fantastic community of B4RN in thatLondon. The keynotes were mega, and although we were happy just to be nominated it was amazing to actually win the award. Thank you to the industry peers who have embraced the rural broadband cause and voted for us. Lancashire salutes you.

This is absolutely fantastic news. I was watching the updates on Twitter and as Chris has already said, it was great just to make it to the final but to hear that B4RN had won it was just something else.

Many people in our community have put hundreds of hours into the project because this is what the community needs and wants in order to thrive in the future. Many people in the wider community have also supported us, be it by writing about B4RN, sponsoring, investing or even spreading the word. All of this we know refer to as “B4RNstorming”!

Last week Chris was in Brussels and B4RN received the support and admiration of Neelie Kroes, the VP.

So we now have confidence in what we are trying to achieve from the community, the industry and Europe. What we now needs is some action from the UK government showing some similar support. With the exception of some local MPs, namely Eric Ollerenshaw, there has been little or no domestic government support . This has to change.

Well done to the B4RN community!

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