Broadband community benefit society aims to raise £3m

The society provides one-gigabit capable broadband to rural communities

A community benefit society providing fast broadband in rural areas is looking to raise £3m to expand its full fibre network.

B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) was set up in 2011. The bencom has now 2,500 members. It delivers the fastest fibre optic broadband connection in the UK to over 5,000 rural homes, businesses and schools in the North West and, more recently, in East Anglia.

The funding would help it to quadruple its network in the next five years. The bencom is hoping to raise the amount using Triodos Bank’s investment crowdfunding platform.

In addition to offering one-gigabit capable broadband to rural communities, B4RN provides internet service to schools in its network free of charge.

The bencom works with local residents and rural landowners to gain access across their land, which helps it install cables at a reduced cost.

According to Ofcom, 1.1 million (4%) of premises in the UK cannot get ‘decent’ broadband and almost two-thirds of premises in rural areas are without superfast broadband coverage. B4RN customers are now among the 5% of properties in the UK that have access to full fibre (one gigabit capable) broadband. The bencom is able to access the government’s gigabit broadband voucher scheme, which enables SMEs to get up to £2,500 for the installation costs of gigabit-capable broadband connections.

Investors can contribute £50 or more with the bond expected to pay 4.5% gross interest per year for its seven-year term.

Related: Tameside co-operative pioneers a new approach to sharing digital infrastructure

Barry Forde, chief executive of B4RN, said: “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.”

Dan Hird, head of Corporate Finance at Triodos Bank, said: “We are delighted to be working with B4RN to help them raise the capital they need to expand their vital service. B4RN is an innovative social enterprise demonstrating that a community approach can deliver a state-of-the-art broadband network in rural networks. It is sure to be of interest to investors that would like to support pioneering organisations delivering positive change.”


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