More must be done to inspire rural community initiatives to deliver superfast broadband services themselves, warns Plunkett Foundation and Carnegie UK Trust.
The issue of high speed broadband for rural communities is about more than just technology; communities themselves will need to play a crucial role in bridging the gap between government and market plans and lack of provision, but the debate so far has failed to empower communities.
This is the message from Plunkett Foundation and the Carnegie UK Trust - who have worked together for over 90 years on a range of rural issues across the UK and Ireland - in a jointly-produced new paper on the issues of rural broadband provision that calls for more support for communities setting up their own broadband services.
Current government plans to address the issue of broadband provision for the UK’s population could leave around 10% of rural communities struggling to get access to high speed broadband -rendering many of these communities unable to play a full part in 21st century life. This will force communities to take on the challenge themselves - something they currently feel unable to do.
Plunkett Foundation’s Peter Couchman, Chief Executive, says: “The Plunkett Foundation and the Carnegie UK Trust believe that governments and markets alone cannot meet the high aspirations of rural communities alone; the critical question to explore is how to empower rural communities to take a more active involvement in their broadband future. We are calling for the community enterprise model to be made more accessible, both in terms of technology and the language used to describe it.”
Plunkett Foundation and the Carnegie UK Trust are calling for communities to be inspired and supported in their efforts to set up their own broadband services, following in the footsteps of pioneering communities like Cybermoor Ltd in Cumbria and Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN).
Douglas White, Senior Policy Officer at the Carnegie UK Trust says: “For many communities, solving the issue of high speed broadband provision can feel like an impossible problem. Due to the perceived complexity of the different technical broadband solutions, too few rural communities are being inspired to solve the broadband conundrum they are facing.
“Together, the Plunkett Foundation and Carnegie UK Trust believe that local communities are best placed to address the issues they are facing – and that communities are capable of achieving significant improvements when they begin to look at, and take greater ownership of, the physical and personal assets that they have at their disposal.”
The new Plunkett Foundation and Carnegie UK Trust report: Rural Broadband – Reframing the Debate aims to bring a fresh perspective to the issue of high speed broadband access in rural communities across the UK and Ireland.You can also download a summary of the report here.
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Notes to Editors
Plunkett Foundation (www.plunkett.co.uk) is the national organisation for supporting community-owned shops and other forms of rural enterprises. Founded in 1919 by Sir Horace Plunkett, the Foundation helps rural communities through community-ownership tot take control of the issues affecting them.
The Carnegie UK Trust (www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk) works to improve the lives of people throughout the UK and Ireland, by changing minds through influencing policy, and by changing lives through innovative practice. We are one of over 20 foundations worldwide endowed by Scots American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
The two organisations have worked together for over 90 years on a range of rural issues across the UK and Ireland.
Cybermoor Ltd was the first rural broadband co-operative in England and it provides a broadband service to rural communities in Cumbria, Northumberland and Herefordshire. In addition, the community website it operates connects together the geographically dispersed residents of Alston Moor and provides a forum where residents can discuss a variety of local issues and benefit from travel text alerts. Most recently, residents have started benefiting from telehealth and telemedicine services.
The Cybermoor project was launched in Alston, Cumbria, in 2001 with funding from the “Wired up Communities” UK Government initiative. In 2003, Cybermoor Ltd. was set up to move the project towards sustainability. In 2010 Cybermoor completed the installation of its own wireless backhaul connection over a distance of 40 miles with a capacity of up to 375 megabits per second. It now has the highest penetration of broadband in any rural area in England. It has recently completed a Community Share Issue to build a next generation fibre to the home network. Cybermoor Ltd as a turnover of £250,000 and all profits are reinvested in the business. It has 6 full time equivalent employees, 10 volunteers and 350 members.