B4RN started with an ambitious plan to bring Gigabit Internet to rural Lancashire and put its first spade in the ground a year ago, and their ambitions are continuing to grow as the project expands its scope and looks for more investment to allow it grow and provide Gigabit coverage to a potential 3,206 properties across 21 parishes in Lancashire.
"To encourage investment we offered an incentive of a free connection and 12 months free service for those taking at least £1500 worth of shares either via the cash or effort routes. This share issue has raised £500K so far but the final figure will climb as the build out progresses. This is because many farmers and landowners have opted to invest via effort rather than cash, taking shares as payment for work done, such as digging the ducts to take the fibre. However much of the work has been delayed by the awful weather of 2012 and has yet to be done. We anticipate at least another £250K will be realised over the coming months as they catch up.
Once the original project got under way there was a massive amount of interest and many groups from adjacent parishes became active and wanted to be included. Where sufficient interest has been shown we have added these to the service area which has now grown to 21 parishes covering 420Km2 and containing 3200 properties. The cost has climbed to £3.5M so a second share offer of £3,000,000 has now been started."Extract from B4RN Business Plan v5.2
B4RN with its rural uplands location is doing a FTTH roll-out in an area where most commercial estimates suggest a cost of £10,000 per premise, a lot of the saving to date has come from volunteer work and co-operation from landowners. The business plan does identify the risk that many other community projects run into and that is volunteer fatigue. With running costs of £90,000 per year, B4RN needs 300 paying connections to become self-sustaining, but moving to a longer term model with 5 or 6 full-time equivalent staff the number of active connections needed to break even rises to around 1,000.
The 21 parishes that will be covered assuming funding targets are met mean that a total of 500km of ducting will be used to link the 3,206 properties. The community led approach does mean the project does have exceptional take-up rates for properties the network passes, it will be interesting to see if the average take-up rate of 60% from the first 100 or so connections continues as the network expands.
Arkholme with Cawood, Bleasdale, Burrow with Burrow, Cantsfield, Caton with Littledale(partial only), Claughton, Dolphinholme area, Gressingham, Halton (Aughton area), Halton (Forgebank area), Hornby with Farleton, Ireby, Leck, Melling with Wrayton, Over Wyresdale, Quernmore, Roeburndale, Scotforth, Tatham, Tunstall, Wennington, Whittington, Wray with BottonExpanded list of 21 parishes for B4RN coverage