Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

UK forges ahead with next gen net

Some schemes are earmarked for remote areas

Do-it-yourself broadband schemes are springing up around the UK as communities refuse to wait for big firms to roll out faster networks.

That is the conclusion of a new report into the state of broadband in Britain.

The Communications Consumer Panel, an advisory body, has mapped over 40 local broadband projects.

They range from a scheme in Hampshire to run fibre to just 30 houses to one in Yorkshire that will connect around 550,000 homes.


Report author Roger Darlington was surprised by the number of schemes available.

"There were a lot more than I realised, which reflects a certain amount of frustration that people are not seeing super-fast broadband rolled out as fast as they would like," he said.

The scheme in Hampshire relates to a tiny hamlet called Bradley, where a local resident is evaluating whether fibre can be laid to the homes of residents.

Hampshire County Council is willing to assist the project, dubbed Bradnet, and money could be made available via the European Social Fund.

Many of the schemes are being planned in partnership with either the local council or the relevant Regional Development Agency.

But some have come from the communities themselves.

In an area outside Birmingham, the Walsall Regeneration Company is working with the Community Broadband Network to replicate the OnsNet scheme in the Netherlands, arguably one of Europe's most successful community-owned fibre schemes.

The scheme would piggyback off a new business centre in the town and would serve Birchills, a deprived community next to it.

Meanwhile in Cumbria, the villagers of Alston are banding together to lay their very own fibre network.

Joined up

Virgin Media logo
Virgin Media has begun to upgrade its cable network

In South Yorkshire an ambitious project aims to see Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology reach 550,000 homes over the next three years.

The project involves local councils, Regional Development Agencies and funding from the European Commission and the first houses should have their connections by the second half of 2009.

The report calls for the jigsaw of networks to be joined up.

"It is vital that they are not standalone but can operate with each other," said Mr Darlington.

Such community-based schemes are no replacement for the plans of the big operators though and will have to exist side by side, said Mr Darlington.

Virgin Media has begun the process of upgrading its cable network to 50Mb (megabits per second). Its network covers half of the country.

Meanwhile BT has pledged 1.5bn to developing fibre networks but has yet to begin work.

It is currently conducting a technical trial at the Foxhall exchange in Kesgrave, Suffolk, involving some 35 homes.

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