Community broadband networks once held out great promise for getting broadband to all parts of the UK, alas just as they were rising up from ground level, the BT Group decided it could afford to roll-out the current ADSL services to almost all the country.
Some community broadband solutions do continue to thrive, especially in parts of the UK where Virgin Media have no network and the BT local loop means ADSL performance will be poor or non-existent. The BBC has run an article which is based on the view by Francesco Caio that the future of broadband may be a patchwork of different fibre or wireless networks covering the country.
The roll your own approach to broadband networks that can deliver speeds of 25Mbps or more is certainly feasible, but without some form of framework and common specifications it runs a significant risk of the problem that plagues cable TV in Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes was ahead of its time with its cable TV service, but alas the network has proven to be a difficult one to upgrade to keep up with the times.
If the government were to push community lead solutions, then it would be a clear sign to BT, Virgin Media and other commercial telcos that they can just concentrate on the densely populated areas and not budget for the remaining 30 to 40% of households in the UK. This would then mean people will be at the mercy of the enthusiasm of people locally to create their own solution, or else be too reliant on a single person in the community.
Rolling your own fibre network is much more than getting fibre to every home. Linking this network to the Internet may prove expensive, particularly if each home has access to speeds of 50Mbps. With these sorts of numbers the uplink would need to be perhaps 1Gbps or faster if you want to avoid the actual experience feeling like current generation broadband.
Perhaps in another 6 years we will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about in 2008 as we all sit there with a choice of broadband speeds from 1Mbps through to 200Mbps. Looking back at 2002, when 0.5Mbps was the common speed and lots had no broadband (yes we know some still cannot get it, but this number is a lot less than 2002), one can see the similarities. History suggests that once one provider takes the risk and it starts to pay off all the others will follow to ensure they do not miss the boat.