B4RN to crowdfund in push to quadruple network in five years
B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) has been probably the most vocal UK proponent for full fibre networks for many years now and has a footprint of 5,000 premises connected in one of the most rural parts of England, i.e. those 5,000 premises are spread over a chunk of land equivalent to that enclosed by the M25.
While B4RN relies a lot on community based help its roll-out does require money for various elements and with plans to quadruple the footprint in the next five years a cash injection is needed and to that end a crowdfunding scheme has been set-up with a goal of £3 million.
The issue of a lack of decent broadband in rural Britain is an everyday problem for its residents and businesses, and yet it needn’t be. We have overcome challenges the large providers were just simply unprepared to take on and by working as a community we have managed to bring the UK’s fastest broadband to some of the UK’s most rural areas.
By crowdfunding through Triodos we can connect more and more rural properties, which makes a huge difference to everyone living and working in those communities, and local schools benefit from free broadband. I am proud of what we have achieved so far, but through this bond offer I am very excited about our future and the impact we can have for rural UK communities.Barry Forde, chief executive of B4RN
That B4RN was planning to use this funding path has been known for a short while, but we held off of posting in the hope that the community bond would be open for people to access and the fund seems to have opened at around 10:15am and the first £100 has been invested. For more detail on the bond offer visit https://www.triodoscrowdfunding.co.uk/invest/broadband-for-the-rural-north the detail reveals that the fund raising is set to run for 63 days and the minimum investment is £50 and the scheme will pay 4.5% gross interest per year in its seven year term. The capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed.
An investment in B4RN is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The organisation’s ability to pay the interest and repay the bonds is not guaranteed and is dependent on the continued success of its business model. These bonds are unquoted securities with a fixed repayment date and although the bonds are transferable, investors should be aware that they may not be able to access their capital during the life of the bond.
We covered the digital divide and how rural areas are lagging behind in superfast coverage earlier in February i.e. rural superfast coverage is down at 86.4% (superfast defined as 30 Mbps and faster) versus 98.2% for urban areas. If you restrict the analysis to only look at business premises the figures are worse, rural business superfast coverage is at 78.1% and for urban business premises it is 90.3%. The ONS definitions of rural and urban are used and for business premises 78.1% fall into the urban zone and the other 21.9% into the rural, if you subdivide the rural categorty into what we refer as the deeply rural areas of Great Britain (comprising 13.1% of business premises) the superfast coverage drops further to just 67.4%.
Update 10:28am Slight change to wording of this article as the fund has now opened, where as at the original time of publication (9.40am) the crowd funding page was not open for investment.