THE Community Broadband Network (CBN) is set to launch at the end of January with a £ 50,000 grant awarded by Co-operative Action.
Set up by the Phone Co-op and RuralNet UK the broadband social enterprise aims to provide faster internet connections to those in rural areas where 10 million people are without connections.
They are the computer users, including businesses, based in hard-to-reach rural areas, which accounts for more than 20 per cent of the country.
Co-operative Action ? which funds the development of new co-operative enterprises ? has awarded the £ 50,000 grant to the initiative to support community broadband projects in remote, rural areas.
Stephen Youd-Thomas of Co-operative Action said: "Rural areas are not properly serviced, at the moment, because it's viewed as commercially challenging to take broadband into the most distant corners of the UK. As a result, the provision of broadband to rural communities is often best achieved by the communities themselves – communities who are driven by a need and desire for action, not by commercial motives."
Project Manager, Malcolm Corbett added: "Not content to see their communities relegated to second-class status, campaigners around the country have been demanding broadband or in many cases setting up DIY solutions.
"They are setting up self-help community-owned enterprises and need to share expertise, experience and knowledge if they are to learn from the lessons of others, avoid the pitfalls and grow successful enterprises."
Widening the availability of cost-effective broadband is a priority for Government. CBN has brought together the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Regional Development Agencies and local authorities with a growing recognition of social enterprise as having "a key economic importance".
"We are wanting to push back the barriers to social enterprise, and to bring the provision of broadband services within its scope," said Stephen Timms, Minister of State for Energy, E-Commerce and Postal Services, when he welcomed the emerging Community Broadband Network at the RuralNet conference late last year.
"I have often heard from successful community enterprises that finding a reliable and coherent source of good quality advice can be very hit and miss," he said. "This development should help to deliver the experience of successful social enterprises for the benefit of communities around the UK.
"The pioneers in social enterprise development will see their lessons picked up by a wider audience of those only now starting out along the social enterprise route ? it is vital that we realise the potential of this."
Mr Timms, who has responsibility for delivering the Government broadband targets, and the Labour/Co-op MP and Rural Affairs Minister, Alun Michael, will attend the "Access to Broadband Campaign" conference at CISCO System's Heathrow headquarters when the Community Broadband Network is formally launched on January 27 and 28.