West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

High Speed Rural Broadband Scheme Model 'Suited to Co. Tyrone'

Published: 6 October, 2015

Local Councillors Barry McNally and Stephen McCann have recently returned from a one day visit to Aughton, in Lancashire in England where a Rural Community Broadband scheme provides high speed broadband to thousands of customers who previously were unable to avail of Broadband services due to their rural location. Known as B4RN (Broadband For the Rural North) it is a community-owned fibre network in Lancashire providing future-proof full fibre connections to homes, businesses and communities in what is a very large rural area.

The B4RN project was set up in 2012 and currently has over 2,000 customers enjoying broadband speeds which are equal to, if not better, than many urban cities. Customers pay £30 per month for the unlimited service and its success has only served to encourage more people to avail of the opportunity.

The B4RN co-operative group consists mainly volunteers with a small number of employees and uses funds raised from loans and publicly sold shares to cover costs.

According to local Councillors Barry McNally and Stephen McCann, who attended the ICBAN organised tour of the area it is a method of best practice which is suited and could be implemented in the Tyrone area given the wide rural areas in question.

Speaking following the visit Mid Tyrone Sinn Féin Cllr McNally said:

"We were able to see at first hand the development of the B4RN project. The day we visited the area five more properties were being switched onto the Broadband network, these included four residential properties and a local pub and restaurant. Whilst the work is very intensive, from laying hundreds of miles of fibre optic cables the benefits are huge. Indeed their success has seen the project expand to other rural areas across England.

"The problems with telecommunications infrastructure be it broadband or mobile phone coverage has been well documented locally. Indeed it has been highlighted as an important issue in the development of the council Corporate Plan and I know Broadband improvement will form part of a funding package through the Rural Development programme in the coming months. It is my hope than an innovative project like the one we visited will emerge to address these needs.

Reflecting on what he took from the visit Stephen McCann said:

"This scheme is certainly something which could be used in the North of Ireland and in particular County Tyrone. Many areas such as Eskra,Trillick, Clanabogan and Creggan to name but a few would benefit greatly from such a scheme. Before departing on Tuesday I discussed with an ICBAN official about how to bring forward a similar scheme into local areas of Tyrone and Fermanagh. Certainly that will remain my focus in the incoming period in an effort to address this hugely important issue. With advances in Technology making such project possible I think we should explore all a venues to ensure rural communities are treated to the same service provision of those located in urban areas. As we seen in England such a scheme can only be good news for local rural communities who are affected by poor broadband provision.