DYI fibre as alternative to RBI

Rural communities, defined as the 25% of New Zealanders outside the UFB footprint of 33 cities, are not going to get fibre to the home (other than a few exceptions who happen to be on Chorus’ fibre route). With no hope of the Government changing its mind to keep rural areas in the Internet slow lane any time soon, can the famed Kiwi no. 8 wire and community spirit provide an alternative?

RBI is a great first step. Given the atrocious Internet connectivity outside the main cities, getting download speeds of up to 5 Mb/s is very welcome. Chorus says about 40,000 rural homes and businesses will also get access to (copper) fixed line broadband services up to 10 Mb/s as it rolls out fibre to cabinets. Both of these will make a huge difference. However, it isn’t fibre to the home and all the opportunities that come with that.

In addition, with Vodafone providing data caps at 5 to 10 GB a month, rural communities are going to be left far behind by RBI on its own.

Local initiatives

This has led to several local initiatives springing up across New Zealand. For example, Electricity Ashburton provides rural fibre in the Mid Canterbury region under the EA Networks banner. It is an open access fibre network along the lines of the UFB, thereby allowing multiple Retail Service Providers to reach out to people and businesses. While the New Zealand Regional Fibre Group failed in its bid to partner with the Government, component companies now provide welcome diversity in ultra-fast broadband supply individually.

Then there is the somewhat mysterious Woolly Fibre. No idea who they are or what they are actually doing but sounds interesting. There was also some talk of rural marae being digital hubs which also sounds very promising.

Micro initiatives

At a more micro level, there may be community-led initiatives. This is where one person, or a couple of people, decide to stop waiting for solutions from others and rally the community to bring fibre broadband for themselves. These initiatives aren’t covered by mainstream media and getting to know about them is difficult. If you do know of any, please share the information by leaving a comment.

Hopefully, across New Zealand, there are some people who are tired of being labelled uneconomic. Putting on their DIY hats, they should be fuelled by the famed Kiwi no. 8 wire spirit to get fibre broadband at surprisingly low prices.

One source of inspiration is the B4RN (Facebook page) community broadband network in the UK who say:

The purpose of the project is to take a new approach to the ownership, financial and deployment models used traditionally, and still proposed by, telecommunications companies. These models invariably leave rural areas outside of the scope of economic viability for the telecoms companies, and have helped to create the Digital Divide between rural and urban Britain…

This is a community-wide, co-operative, and collaborative initiative to do the job once, and do it correctly without costly stop gap solutions in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Forest of Bowland and the Lune Valley.

According to a BBC report, local community support translates into free access to fields that has made it much cheaper to roll out the network. The result: B4RN provides a 1GB/s symmetrical connection for £30 month with a £150 connection fee.

Check this out:

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqwc7XU0DDs


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