Broadband for Rural North to quadruple its network after crowdfunding £2m

The bencom plans to use the funding to expand its gigabit-capable network

Community benefit society Broadband for Rural North (B4RN) has raised £2m through Triodos Bank’s crowdfunding platform, which will enable it to quadruple its network to up to 20,000 properties by 2023.

The offer attracted retail investors and institutional investors. including the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s social investment fund.

Launched in December 2011, B4RN has over 5,000 connected properties. With this investment, the bencom will be able to expand its gigabit-capable network, which is the fastest available in the UK. Its community-owned gigabit network is entirely fibre optic.

The investment offer is open until 1 July at on Triodos’ crowdfunding platform, with a target £3m. The interest rate on the seven-year bonds is 4.5% per year. The minimum investment is £50 with an average investment of £3,300 so far. However, as with all investments, capital is at risk and interest payments are not guaranteed.

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Barry Forde, chief executive of B4RN, said: “We’re delighted to have raised £2mn through crowdfunding with Triodos. Investors from all over the UK have got behind us and will help us to connect more properties, more quickly than we would have usually been able to do.

“We also see the impact this valuable service has on communities and how it brings them closer together as they are instrumental in helping to ensure the network connection happens. The future of B4RN is very exciting and we hope to reach our overall crowdfunding target, which will help us to significantly grow the network so more people and businesses benefit.”

Dan Hird, head of Corporate Finance at Triodos Bank, said: “This investment will enable B4RN to substantially increase its network, to connect more and more houses, businesses, community groups and schools to the best broadband possible in the UK in some of our most rural communities. We are delighted to have raised this amount of investment so far and can’t thank people enough for getting behind B4RN. Our goal now is to reach £3m, which will enable B4RN to quadruple its network by 2023.”

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Gillian Dickson, social investment manager at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, said: “Esmée Fairbairn Foundation first invested in B4RN through a small loan in 2014 to help scale its operations. We know how committed it is to delivering this valuable service in rural areas and the difference it makes to people’s lives.

“We are delighted to be able make a further investment in this crowdfunding offer and to be a part of this opportunity for B4RN to take its operations to the next level. Esmée aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities and we are excited to be involved in BR4N given the immediate benefits this project will deliver.”