B4RN’s founder and CEO, Barry Forde MBE, has retired.

He’s overseen the building of a gigabit capable fibre-to-the-premises network which reaches into very remote parts of rural Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Norfolk, the Northeast and Yorkshire.

The Community Benefit Society’s operated since 2011 under a unique model – B4RN is partly funded by local communities, which volunteer their time and grant free wayleaves to help physically build the infrastructure.

It’s that way of working which has seen B4RN reach locations considered too expensive by commercial operators.

Driving Force

Barry leaves B4RN in a successful and robust position, approaching nearly 8,000 customers. He has been the driving force behind the growth of B4RN from day one, leading with passion and determination and always keeping his finger on the pulse.

Part of that is due to his long history in broadband and network management, which has seen him hold various senior roles in the CLEO network, LUNS Ltd, Lancaster University (head of networking) and more. He was even awarded an MBE in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his work (pictured).

B4RN volunteers and staff have inundated the office with messages and gifts. This video* puts together some of those messages alongside pictures of Barry through his near decade-long journey with B4RN.

A Beacon of Lit Fibre for the Digitally Disadvantaged

The man himself addressed a virtual farewell from colleagues over Microsoft Teams earlier this month.

Barry said B4RN’s community aspect must not be lost, adding that human connections made by volunteer groups during projects were just as important as the network:

 

The Directors of the company have praised Barry’s contribution: “Barry has lived B4RN night and day for more than ten years, in the course of which he has enjoyed its triumphs and shouldered the burdens associated with leading a maturing and unique enterprise.

“Barry will continue to enjoy the future growth and development of B4RN free from the responsibilities that come with the management of any company seeking to flourish.”

The Board is overseeing the ongoing process of appointing a successor.

Whoever it will be, the Board has emphasised they are looking for someone who understands B4RN’s community ethos and the role the company plays in the parishes it serves.

Technology journalists who’ve followed B4RN with interest down the years have also praised Barry. ISP Review wrote: “Replacing Barry will not be any easy task and, in many ways, this feels like the end of an era, albeit one where B4RN should continuing shining brightly into the future. A beacon of lit fibre for the digitally disadvantaged.”

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*We got one video message a little too late to include in the video above. So here’s a message from Keith Brady (Borwick and Priest Hutton project) to Barry on it’s own: