550 community broadband initiatives around the UK
BT is pushing hard with its roll-out of ADSL to exchanges where it can make a viable case for broadband, but this will leave some areas still without access to ADSL. Other telco's still have a long way to go to approach the coverage level from BT. The Community Broadband Network (CBN) which was set up with funding from the DTI, DEFRA, the Countryside Agency, Co-operative Action and Cisco Systems is due to report to a DTI Summit event on 2nd March 2005.
This report details that the CBN has found 550 community networks, many based in rural areas. The vast majority of these networks are using license exempt areas of the wireless network to share broadband connections and ensure digital inclusion within the areas they cover. The number of people using these types of services is about 50,000, though many projects are still in the development stages rather than 'live'. A full copy of the report can be downloaded from www.broadband-uk.coop.
The movement for community networking really took off in 2003, when it looked like the BT roll-out was going to be very slow, but since then this has accelerated. In some cases the roll-out has swamped community systems, that have either adapted and survived or have been laid to rest. At least the UK is giving these networks a chance, in the US state of Pennsylvania, when the city of Philadelphia announced plans for a low cost Wi-Fi network, the big telco's campaigned for a change in the law to outlaw such networks. Unfortunately they succeeded, with Philadelphia only getting its network after a specific exclusion was added to the law. For more on that story see NetworkMagazine.com.