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World’s fastest rural broadband...is in Scole

David Evans and Michael Davey. ''Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
David Evans and Michael Davey. ''Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

The world’s fastest rural broadband has gone live – at Scole Community centre.

Following a huge community effort across the region, the centre, in Ransome Avenue, now boasts download speeds of 1,000mbs.

David Evans and Michael Davey. ''Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
David Evans and Michael Davey. ''Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

It is only one of a handful of rural areas to go live with hyperfast broadband in the UK, with the service set to be extended, with community help, to Billingford, Thelveton, Thorpe Parva and Shimpling.

It has been brought to East Anglia by hundreds of volunteers, including local cabinet makers, accountants, cake makers and computer engineers.

Scole Community Centre will also act as a demonstrator site where people can try the broadband for themselves.

“The feeling is one of joyous amazement and also one of relief,” said David Evans, B4RN East Anglia Regional Director

“For years, we have not had reliable broadband or proper speeds in the region and now Scole Community Centre has lightning speeds, which means voice calls are crystal clear, and movies and films can be downloaded in an instant.

“What is even greater is that we now have the potential to expand this to surrounding areas, and feed fibre cables direct to homes, rather than rely on old telephone networks that no-one really seems to be prepared to invest in.”

Wednesday’s switch-on followed a year-long project by volunteer groups from across the region.

The community centre was chosen because it is on a direct fibre line, which originally runs from Holland, through Lowestoft and to London. The line was undiscovered for 13 years.

The Government recently reduced its target of bringing the whole of the UK up to speeds of 24mbs by 2020, to 10mbs, to make faster broadband more attainable.

“When I was approached by B4RN and asked if I was interested in hosting the cabinet at the community centre, I realised the fantastic opportunity we had been offered,” said Clive Blakesley, chairman of Scole Community Centre.

“It has the potential to benefit not only the community centre and the groups that use it, but the whole village, including local businesses and home workers.

“Now we have hyperfast broadband – unbelievably fast, something I’d never have thought was possible.

“Who would have thought a group of volunteers could build their own broadband network?”

B4RN East Anglia held its first public meeting in the area around Scole in March 2017, becoming a regional division of B4RN, which is an internet service provider, based in Lancashire, in July of the same year.

In 2018, the local community installed approximately seven kilometres of duct with the help of B4RN’s engineers.

David Evans added: “A lot of hard work has gone into this day, from bringing together our volunteer network, to raising funds and digging around fields to lay the duct, but it is not rocket science.

“Fifteen volunteers and a few B4RN engineers completed the civil works in about 10 working days, spread over a couple of months.

“In return for that hard work, we are now part of one of the most modern and fastest rural broadband networks in the world.”

“The B4RN pure fibre network brings the latest fibre technology directly into people’s homes using light to transmit the signal rather than electrical impulses over older cable networks.

“The key for rural broadband is not just connecting fast fibre to the ageing copper and aluminium cables as this dramatically slows the speed and does nothing to prevent the constant breaks caused by the current ancient infrastructure,” added Mr Evans, a cabinet maker.

B4RN East Anglia is now raising investment from residents for the service to be shared in Billingford, Upper Street, Thelveton and Shimpling. This should be followed by Gissing, Tivetshall and Thwaite.

The B4RN is demand driven and the community needs to provide the volunteer labour to dig trenches, lay cables across fields and under roads and connect to B4RN’s core network.

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