And so B4RN begins, despite BT
Yesterday the dig began for the first phase of B4RN, the UK’s first community owned fibre to the home (FTTH) network.
The network promises to bring 1Gbps symmetric internet access to rural Lancashire communities that had little or no hope of ever receiving even a 2Mbps service from BT, the area’s only other broadband provider.
B4RN came about after a series of interventions that helped BT to keep its monopoly in the area. Firstly Chris Conder, who ran a community wireless broadband network Wray, faced closure after BT and the Lancashire County Council set up a joint venture that took over her backhaul supplier, the Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online (Cleo) network.
Later Barry Forde, who designed the Cleo network, was denied a £750,000 ERDP grant via the Lancaster City Council to build a fibre link between the villages of Quernmore and Over Wyresdale.
The county council later issued a £40m tender for a a firm to supply a county-wide broadband network under the BDUK procurement framework standards. This meant residents in these upland villages were unlikely to get even 2Mbps service, unless via satellite.
BT’s efforts to make life difficult for competitors in Lancashire appear to have continued. There is an ongoing Twitter stream designed to instill fear, uncertainty and doubt about B4RN’s viability (and other initiatives) by Bill Broadband (@watchingtheflow). This is believed to be the Twitter identity of Bill Murphy, the man in charge of BT’s next generation network roll-out.
Lancashire County Council said in January BT has won a £32m tender to supply broadband to the “Final Third” of Lancashire homes and businesses. But recent tweets by Bill suggested the LCC cabinet had issued a press release that indicated the deadline for BT’s roll-out. I could not find such a release, nor evidence that the LCC cabinet had met in March to discuss the topic or the release.
I am a B4RN shareholder. Question is: is Bill Broadband a BT shareholder, or have some other vested interest in killing competition to BT?