On Wednesday 16th May, we held our first meeting since reaching the initial funding target and being given the go-ahead by B4RN. The purpose of the meeting was for B4RN’s experts to give basic training to our own dig team. A mole plough is on its way to us, and the digging of our own network could even start before the end of May!
The things we need people in the area to do now or as soon as possible are Register, Invest & Volunteer.
If you (or your neighbours) haven’t yet indicated your interest in getting better broadband for your home or business in Rathmell / Wigglesworth, you can still register via this website. Registering helps make sure you’re on our lists and – more importantly – the local network route maps.
We should soon have a couple of banners up in Rathmell and Wigglesworth to try and make sure that everyone is aware of the project.
Investment in our project is open and as of Monday 5th March we already have a total of £15,500 invested in shares. We will periodically get an updated number from B4RN and we will update the total on our website which you can see here http://rwbb.org.uk/b4rn-investment-progress/.
We need to keep pushing towards our initial target of £50,000 in order to be able to start digging so I would encourage everyone that is able to, and particularly those who are included in Phase 1, to make their investment in B4RN as soon as they can.
If you want to invest through shares the ‘Application for Shares’ form which you need to fill in can be downloaded from here https://b4rn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Share-application-form-B4RN-V5.1-21.9.17.pdf. If you don’t have the facility to print off a copy, and don’t have a handy neighbour who could print you one, please let us know and we will get a copy to you.
You can also invest via making a loan to B4RN which can be more beneficial compared to shares for non tax payers. The availability and terms of the loans can vary over time but typical terms are a 5 year loan paying 4% compound annual interest with the capital and interest being repaid at the end of the term. Let Roger Vincent know if you want to know more about loans and I will give you details of how to proceed.
We will need to raise a total of at least around £85,000 for Phase 1 to be completed as this would be the minimum amount needed if all digging is done as ‘work for shares’ by landowners/farmers. We are hopeful based on indications from the Phase 1 farmers / landowners that practically the whole route can be done as work for shares, but there is no obligation on farmers / landowners to do this. n.b. a farmer / landowner can do ‘work for shares’ on someone else land (obviously with the permission of the owner/tenant of the land). Another important point from Dave Ryall was that the shares gained through ‘work for shares’ are eligible to claim the 30% EIS tax rebate on, and furthermore will also qualify the shareholder a waiver of the £150 connection fee if they earn 1500 shares.
For both Shares and Loans investments please make sure you fill in the Allocation Preference on the forms for the ‘Rathmell and Wigglesworth’ project to ringfence the investment to our project.
As discussed at the meeting we are aiming to commence our dig around the end of April / early May, the exact start date will depend on when we can raise the £50,000 to start digging, and just as important the state of the weather / fields. It is possible for the dig to progress quickly and for the work to be done in weeks, but a more realistic timescale is probably in months. We would be aiming to get Phase 1 done and be working on one or more of the next routes to be done by the end of this year.
Not everyone needs to do this but every bit of help we can get will help keep the project moving along.
Ways in which you can help include:
- Helping with main route digs – wrangling ducting ready for mole ploughing, helping prepare holes under field walls, helping install access chambers, backfilling
- Helping with garden digs – helping get 7mm duct from the garden wall to the house wall where the resident is not able to do so by themselves
- House installs – this involves drilling through the house wall and putting the last length of duct through the wall and fitting the interior and exterior wall fittings, training may be required (n.b. the termination of the actual fibres will be carried out by B4RN engineers)
- Local coordinator – liaising with a cluster of neighbours, seeing who needs help with a garden dig and arranging a common date when B4RN can come to get fibre blown to all the cluster and prepare the connections in the properties in one go.
- Food & Drink – a digger will feel much better after a snack and a cup of something warm
To paraphrase Roger’s informative email of the 28th December…
Signed wayleave agreements are now in place for nearly all of the initial Route 1 from Armitstead Hall, Lawkland down to the centre of Rathmell (as well as many of the local property spurs on that route and around central Rathmell).
A slight change has been made to this initial route which will shorten its path, but that has involved a few ‘new’ landowners, and a few more wayleaves to get in the next 2 to 3 weeks.
Progress on other routes will be able to be made once this initial connection to LEWFA’s network is finalised.
Costing / investment
B4RN are trying to get a costing to us by the middle of January.
They will also tell us how much initial investment we would need to have in place in order to begin digging. The initial amount needs to be enough to purchase our cabinet and the ducting / cabling for Route 1, and to cover the cost of digging (although not all digging costs need to come out of the budget, because some of our landowners are willing to dig in return for B4RN shares).
As soon as we have our last Route 1 wayleave signed up and our investment target in place, we will make the call for investment to begin.
Call for volunteers
Once wayleaves and investment are in place, the digging can begin and the rest of us in the community can play more of a part. Please let Roger know if you are willing to help with any (or all) of the following phases of work:
We will be talking with landowners/farmers over the winter to get a rough plan for digging. We aim to start digging in April / May (which should coincide with the fields being available for the work too). We’ll need people to help with the digging itself, and with the supplying of tea / sandwiches / cake to the diggers.
- Garden digging
Once the line reaches each property, the property owner is responsible for getting the line from the boundary (e.g. the garden wall) to the house. Not everyone can do this digging by themselves, of course, so if you are willing to help those who can’t, please let Roger know.
- Getting the line into each house
Once the line has reached the property itself, the project team takes responsibility for drilling through property walls and getting the line into each house, as well as for mounting the external and internal termination boxes. We also need volunteers for this phase; appropriate training will be provided.
- Local co-ordinators
When we reach the stage where individual properties can be connected, it will be done in clusters, with all properties served by the same local access point (i.e. the nearest manhole on the route) done on the same day, which requires some coordination between neighbours. Around each manhole / access point, we will be looking for a local coordinator to go between the project team and neighbours to set a date for the cluster’s connections to be made (and make sure everyone is in!).
A public meeting was held at The Plough in Wigglesworth on Wednesday 2nd August at 7:30pm… B4RN’s Community Liaison & Planning Coordinator, David Ryall, defined the spectrum of public meetings he had attended as ranging from “7 people, and a dog, who fell asleep” at the low end, up to “standing room only, and it was a big room” at the top end.
We’re pleased to say that our own public meeting was up towards the top end of the spectrum, with about 20 people left standing at the back after all the seats had been filled, some people overspilling into the bar area and calling for speakers to shout for the benefit of those at the back, and a few people even standing outside looking in through the open windows, until the rain became torrential.
Mr Ryall gave a down-to-earth (excuse the pun) and informative presentation about Broadband for the Rural North, and how we might expect our own B4RN dig to go. He answered questions ably and entertainingly, and there was more excitement after the meeting than one might reasonably have expected for anything involving putting miles and miles of orange duct under the ground and digging up your own garden, and paying money for the privilege. Perhaps it was the anticipation of both 1Gbps download and upload speed AND cups of tea and pieces of cake that did it? Or maybe it really was the sense of promise at a community alternative to a faceless corporation, a potentially good return on investment, and raised house prices, as various people mentioned.
The meeting was an excellent opportunity to find out more about B4RN from Mr Ryall, and from members of the neighbouring LEWFA and Clapham B4RN projects who attended and gave their own answers to residents’ questions.
Thank you to all who organised, spoke, asked, answered or just attended, and to the Plough for hosting the meeting.
LEWFA welcomed a group of us on the 25th June, and talked us through their experiences so far with their B4RN project, which was started in 2015 and was, when we met them, a little over a month into the digging and laying of the fibre optic cables for their community broadband network.
The meeting was extremely helpful, and painted a realistic and positive picture of the organisation, investment, determination and effort required to carry out a community project of this type.
- LEWFA expect the whole project to take 2 years, from start to finish.
- They identified three key ongoing tasks and allocated each one to a member of the LEWFA team, so that the workload would be manageable. The tasks were:
- promotion of the project and communication of progress within the community
- route and network planning
- fundraising and finance
- All three of those tasks, running in parallel, were essential to get the project with B4RN started: local enthusiasm was raised and gauged by talking to households and neighbours about the idea; those interested were then asked how much they might roughly be willing to invest in the project (for more on why this community investment is key to all B4RN projects, see here); an initial network map covering all properties in the 5 villages allowed B4RN to calculate an approximate cost for the LEWFA project, to check that the cost wasn’t likely to be in excess of what the community was prepared to pay for it.
- Money was only asked for when LEWFA were sure that the cost was within the community’s reach. When enough money had come in for LEWFA to be sure that the project would be successfully funded, they gave the go-ahead and work started in earnest… ie, material was ordered and digging started.
- Members of the community signed up for smaller / shorter roles in the project, such as talking to landowners to agree wayleaves for the cable to go under their fields, or co-ordinating the digging with landowners, farmers, contractors and volunteers, or helping on dig days (whether with preparation, digging under walls, feeding cable through the mole plough and so on… or with sandwiches, tea and moral support).
- Almost all landowners in the LEWFA area have been extremely supportive of the project, and getting their permission for cable to run under their land has been relatively straightforward, with few exceptions. This is a key factor in the success (and in limiting the cost) of a B4RN project; landowners need to see and be sympathetic to the benefits of bringing broadband to their wider community, since they aren’t paid for cable crossing their land (though they can be “paid” for digging in the cables themselves).
In summary, LEWFA were enthusiastic about their project, and happy with their experience with B4RN so far. Their advice and experience (which they were very willing to share with us, and which we were very grateful to receive) gave those of us from Rathmell and Wigglesworth considerable hope that a similar project could work well in our villages.
Thanks again to LEWFA for their hospitality and openness.
In many ways the inspiration for our own efforts in Rathmell and Wigglesworth, the LEWFA community group is about a year ahead of us in their progress towards bringing fast broadband to our neighbouring villages of Lawkland, Eldroth, Wharfe, Feizor and Austwick.
LEWFA chose B4RN for their project, and started digging the route for the fibre optic cable in May 2016. Their schedule should see the network connected to households in their area over the next 12 months.
We’re organising a meeting with LEWFA in June 2016 to ask more about their experiences so far; anyone interested in participating, or with questions to put to LEWFA, can get in touch with us.
B4RN started out in villages between Lancaster and Bentham, and have already extended their fibre-optic network as far as Clapham and Keasden to the north of us, and are working on a project to bring Lawkland, Eldroth and Austwick onto the network too.
B4RN succeeds by bringing together their expertise and the efforts of the community and the permission of local landowners to produce a hyperfast connection to every property in the community. Their Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) connection gives both a very fast upload and download speed of 1Gbps (that’s 1000Mbps!) with the possibility of even faster speeds in the future over the same connection.
We are actively pursuing getting an estimate of the investment required for this solution. We need to get as accurate as possible list of properties in the Rathmell and Wigglesworth communities so please use the form to Register your Interest.