As followers of our project will know, we would not have made it this far without the help of all the volunteers. Now any volunteer is special; someone who is willing to offer their time and skills to an activity for the benefit of others. Well we were contacted the other week by Tim Higgs who asked if he could help out. Was he local? Not quite. He came all the way from Canterbury in Kent to help out for a couple of days. He’s been kind enough to share his story in the latest B4RNstormer’s guest blog.


I’ve been following B4RN since its conception and really wanted to see how rural communities can pull together and get it done where no commercial provider would ever deliver super-fast broadband. Well I finally had some free time to volunteer last week and best of all the weather was good so a lot was happening.

It was really good to finally meet Christine Conder and everyone else involved, there is a real community spirit of just getting on and getting it done.

On the first day I got to see two customers in Arkholme get connected. A splice in the bullet, a splice in the house to attach the pigtail then plug in the CPE then a patch cable in the cabinet next to the village hall and they were on-line and flying at over 700Mbps! During my time helping a further 2 customers were connected each day, it doesn’t sound like much but these were in rural Docker away from any main village. Yet the beauty of full-fibre means they get the same service as those closer to the cabinet!

The last day I was there (Saturday) I was helping prepare the trench behind Storrs Hall for the fibre ducting and back fill the trench. This was the last stretch, joining the route from Gressingham to Arkholme. With this stretch complete it would only be a few days work blowing in the fibre and splicing to connect the first Gressingham customers. This was such a rewarding moment knowing that this was ready after all the hard work John Hamlett and everyone else involved have put in.

For me it was great to see this FTTH network getting installed and customers connected. It sometimes seems that people just don’t believe that a group of locals can get the job done and that they should instead be waiting and waiting for BT. Well they are doing it and much better and faster than BT would have ever done it. So this really shows what can be done, and could have been done across more of the UK if was not for the councils lack of understanding and belief that BT is the only solution.

What really puts into perspective all the hard work B4RN and the local community have done is that they are getting a gigabit (hyper-fast broadband) now and yet where I live in a city centre Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) isn’t scheduled until March 2014, originally March 2013 but the date keeps on slipping! Exchanges that have been enabled never have all the cabinets enabled for FTTC and even then it is still dependant on distance and at BTs best, (their 330Mpbs service), half the speed of B4RN’s network! B4RN is truly an amazing project being built by extraordinary people!

2 Comments

  1. Very well done Tim becoming a refugee volunteer ! I too have thoroughly enjoyed a little time in the midst of the B4RN folk. I also observe just how resourceful they all are and just get on with it.

    In terms of actual speeds, the major difference for a FTTC solution is that you might get one tenth of B4RN’s download speed but far worse on upload. Our experience is that it is possible to get 80 Mbps down and less than 20 Mbps up, but as it is severely limited by line quality and distance, only if you are within a few hundred metres or so of the FTTC. The B4RN people don’t need to know this, but most other unfortunates who visit this site should see the practical results of installing FTTC in a semi-rural area.

    http://t.co/pNIWEynyij

  2. flickr.com/photos/b4ruralnorth/sets/72157634791723919/ … a 3 Bullet day at Docker with @timmay2 #B4RNstorming for a #digitalbritain photos of Tim fusing his first bullet here, and very many thanks to him for all his hard work, he was a great help.