Visit from B4RN and DCMS – 4th July

It’s a common notion that the institutions that govern us are out of reach, and also that usually, “computer says no”, but yesterday, Rathmell hosted a – frankly huge – group from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, specifically from the Building Digital UK project, and it seems to have been a very promising and practical visit.

BDUK leaders and staff were visiting B4RN’s headquarters, and B4RN’s project team and engineers brought them to Rathmell, because our project happens to be at a particularly interesting stage on several levels:

  • B4RN’s fibre network has just arrived and we’re excited to see first connections after three years of discussion, planning and groundwork
  • key community buildings like the Reading Room and Rathmell Old School were right on the verge of going live, and could be connected in front of DCMS eyes
  • a real-life garden duct dig could be shown in Gooselands
  • we’ve applied for DCMS Gigabit Vouchers through B4RN, but lots of our applications were contested, which seemed odd. The vouchers would give our project finances a real helping hand, boosting the £70,000 or so we’ve raised so far in the community, and ensuring that our more remote neighbours (e.g. those near the methodist chapel) aren’t left out
  • BT Openreach mysteriously started leaving coils of fibre-optic cable unterminated on telegraph poles around the village after quoting us however-much-it-was to come here
  • oh, and the fields in the centre of the village had just been sprayed

Roger led the group around the village, and as they walked, they met and heard from Local Business Leaders, Journalists, Connectivity Engineers, Law Enforcement Representatives, Community Hub Executives, Veterinary Doctors, Agricultural Experts and other Neighbours of Note, and saw first-hand how a project like B4RN can engage different aspects of a community, in a way that an Openreach van might struggle to replicate.

I gathered a bit of circumstantial evidence, including DCMS conversations overheard at the buffet lunch (prepared and served by Jacky, Rosemary and Michelle at the Old School, at which all the carrot cake vanished in an untimely fashion), enigmatic smiles on various people’s faces, and a few tweets from the director of BDUK, which suggested that DCMS are taking our village’s needs very seriously, and may well be reconsidering some of their voucher / funding decisions in our favour. More news on that as it happens…

The atmosphere was fantastic, and it was incredibly encouraging to see B4RN and DCMS out here in a small village, really engaged in the project and attentive to issues that face us and other communities like us. Thanks to all who came, and to those who organised and helped out.

Some key tweets from visitors: