Mid March news, jobs, and digging the first sod…

Firstly, thank you to all the volunteer routewalkers who are visiting homes and farms, collecting the information to finalise the routes and getting wayleaves to build the network. Thanks also to the people who are helping them! It will soon be collated and the routes will be changed where necessary.

The network build is starting on the 31st March midway along the route between Quernmore and Abbeystead. This batch of work delivers the first 13 routes and involves 51Km of main ducts being dug. These routes provide the core of the B4RN network and interconnect the network nodes in Abbeystead, Caton, Wray, Melling and Arkholme back to the network core at Quernmore. As well as the 51Km or primary duct we also need to dig another 32Km of spurs to reach the 441 properties located on the 13 adjoining duct routes.

Diggers

So we now need volunteers to do the digging. Some of you have already registered on our web site offering to do the work in return for shares. But there may well be others who have been thinking about it but not yet registered. Could I ask everyone who is up for it to let us know? Even if you have already registered it would be good to get a fresh confirmation in case you have changed your mind.

We know that 82,000 metres of digging sounds a lot of work but as they say “many hands make light work” so the more volunteers the less the load on each.

We need to know if you are only interested in digging the bit across your own land or whether you would be willing to do your neighbours and/or other properties too. Open trenching with a mini-digger is one option but some people have mole ploughs which can also be used. Do you have equipment you are prepared to loan to others? Perhaps you have experience of digging but lack equipment? If so we can link you to others who have the equipment and are willing to loan it or we can hire it in ourselves.

moleplough on trailer

Moleplough

Also don’t forget we have to get across your gardens to reach your house and this bit can easily be done with a spade so please volunteer to do that bit if you can. The photo shows ducting laid across a lawn, with spades, taken the same day it was laid.

lawn with duct

Photo taken same day as a duct was laid under this lawn

Once we know how many volunteers we have we will organise one or more workshops to go over the specific requirements of digging and installing our ducts, which is not complicated, and answer any questions. There will also be a short written guide available shortly for those who just want the details and numbers.

Remember that we will pay you £1.50 for each metre of duct you install and also make payments for each wall crossed and access chamber installed. As well as helping the community the work will let you build up a shareholding in B4RN which will earn interest and can be cashed in later. See the business plan on our web site for more details.

Once the core 13 routes are done we will begin fresh batches of routes until all 42 are completed. The sequence in which we do the routes will be based on the number of properties signed up for service and how many have invested in B4RN. So signing up and getting your neighbours to sign up will get you connected sooner. But we also need people to invest so that we have the money to buy the materials.

Thanks to you all for the fantastic support you have given the project so far.  Barry Forde

We need cable trailers. Does anyone have one? We will be purchasing some this week if there aren’t any in our parishes. The trailer has to be able to fit a 2200mm diameter drum at 1173Kg weight. It ideally will have hydraulics.

 Webcams

If any landowner needs access to webcams along the route there will be spare fibres which can be coupled up and linked back to the farm. We can increase the fibres to a property from the standard 2 up to as many as 12 if needed. This would allow us to link up to 5 remote devices as well as your broadband link. However we do need to know in advance if you are thinking about webcams/cctv on your buildings or in your fields so that we can make allowance for them, its always harder to retrofit things later on. The fibre cannot carry power so you will need to allow for local power or some sort of solar cells and batteries. Alternatively you might think about taking the opportunity of our trench being dug to drop in an extra cable for low voltage supplies. If there are locations like sports fields or areas where community get togethers happen then again let us know so we can factor them into the plan. Does anyone have any novel ideas that they want to talk through, perhaps a new “killer application” ? We pass by sites of special scientific interest, maybe some agencies would like to have facilities to monitor wildlife? Please contact us for more information or mention it to the routewalkers.

Finally, the news we have all been waiting for:

(An excerpt from our press release, the full version is online on the website https://b4rn.org.uk/dig-2-a-gig-press-release-march-14th)

 B4RN Breaks the First Sod and starts its Community Dig March 31st at Jubilee Tower, Quernmore, starting at 1pm, 2pm Grand opening ceremony, 3pm tea and cake.

 John and Andrew Metcalfe, local farmers, will be breaking the first sod, and are two of the many farmers who will be laying the ducting in order to buy shares in B4RN.

 “This will make a major difference to our community, and to me and my young family. As they grow they will be able to use the technology that children elsewhere take for granted, and we will be able to diversify our business through it”. says Andrew Metcalfe

 Our community-owned, rural, gigabit Fibre To The Home project, Broadband 4 the Rural North, has passed another major milestone this month. The Early Bird offer ended on 29th February, and B4RN CEO, Professor Barry Forde, is pleased to announce that sufficient shares have now been sold to commence the digging which will begin at the event on March 31st.

 “We are delighted with the response to the share issue, which has surpassed even our highest hopes,” said Professor Forde. “This proves that the appetite for investment and support of such community owned broadband projects is alive and well, and that solving the problem of rural broadband for the next generation is prompting people to invest even in times of economic hardship.”

 The launch will be held at a local beauty spot that is half way along the first of the core routes. The dig will progress out from either side of the start point, and all 13 core routes should be live in 3 months, weather permitting. Subsidiary routes and spurs to properties will branch out from that. There has been so much enthusiasm that the management committee is considering whether to bring forward the timescale for later phases of the build.

 The support of the local community has been key to B4RN’s success to date, and there are many people and businesses within the area who will be earning their shares through sweat and labour as well as investing their money.

 Prof. Forde stated, “This is where we can reduce the costs that a traditional telecommunications company would face, by using local skills and knowledge, working directly with the community, and being a part of it. B4RN is a 100% community project, with neighbours helping neighbours. The community spirit is strong in rural areas and B4RN is a showcase for that spirit.”

 Full details of the share issue, including the business plan, are available on http://www.B4RN.org.uk along with maps of the coverage area and phases.