Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

'Broadband grants' for homes plea

By Zoe Kleinman
Technology reporter, BBC News

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The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is lobbying the government to provide grants for rural homes unable to get broadband.

Charles Trotman from the CLA will announce the plans at the Digital Dales colloquium on 26 February.

The event is aimed at those involved with community broadband projects in rural areas.

According to the Broadbandspeedchecker website, up to 1.5 million homes in the UK cannot get adequate broadband.

"The CLA is lobbying the government to introduce a series of broadband grants for rural areas at parish level," Mr Trotman told BBC News.

"We are currently developing proposals and hope to send them to Stephen Timms (Digital Britain Minister) in the next two to three weeks."

Self help

Chris Conder
Chris Conder and her neighbour laid 1km of fibreoptic cable themselves.

In the meantime both communities and individuals are already taking matters into their own hands.

In the village of Wray in Lancashire, a project developed by Lancaster University has seen the town provided with wireless broadband.

A higher speed system is due to be trialled in the next few months but with 180 registered properties on a single 2 megabits per second (Mbps feed), usage has to be rationed.

Locals have set up a similar network for local businesses in nearby Wennington.

"Wennington is a commercial network, for businesses like farms and other rural businesses," said local cattle farmer Chris Conder.

There's no gaming, no YouTube and iPlayer until after 5pm when the businesses have closed for the day
Chris Conder

"There's a rule there - an agreement that we all sign. So the kids know there's no gaming, no YouTube and iPlayer until after 5pm when the businesses have closed for the day and then it's a free for all.

"Some nights it can go slow... but it's the best we can do at the moment."

Farmers rely on the internet to adhere to the regulations of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, she added.

Mrs Conder gets a wireless feed from a broadband mast on a hill opposite her farm. A Locustworld meshbox in her barn receives the signal.

She dug and laid a kilometre of fibreoptic cable to connect her neighbour when tree growth meant that the nearest property to the farm was no longer able to receive the wireless signal.

"We've got another cluster of eight properties that we want to fibre up," she explained.

"And slowly but surely we'll fibre up all the network and take the wireless element out of it but it's slow because we have to pay for it ourselves."

Satellite solution

Satellite dish, Paul Camilli
Paul Camilli's satellite was subsidised by the Scottish government.

In Scotland Paul Camilli is ferryman for the Isle of Raasay, east of Skye. Eighteen months ago he decided to install satellite broadband.

Prior to that he relied on a dial-up connection.

"It isn't by any means perfect, connection occasionally drops out and upload speeds can be pretty grim, but compared with what I was used to it's fantastic really," Mr Camilli said.

"Communication's always been a problem. For many years I didn't even have a phone," he added.

Mr Camilli now keeps a photo-led blog depicting life on the island.

Satellite broadband is a more expensive alternative to landline-based connections, costing around £600 for the dish and installation. Packages vary from £34 - £115 per month depending on usage.

David Williams, chief executive of Avanti Communications operates a satellite broadband service to 5000 customers in the UK and in Europe.

He said the Avanti service would improve dramatically in the summer of 2010 when the company launches its own KA band satellite, developed over three years at a cost of £120m.

"At the moment we're providing a limited service using rented capacity on a TV satellite," he said.

"Our satellite will be eight times more powerful. It's designed to provide 10 Mbps service during bad weather."

He hopes it will both bring down the cost to consumers and put Avanti into the FTSE 100.

"The satellite business is weird - it's a bit like oil exploration. You have to spend a huge amount of money to get the kit but once you've done that the money flows in."



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