A Northumberland community is bringing its own solution to their broadband woes with help from the Village SOS Big Lottery Fund. The residents of Newton and Bywell have secured £10019 of grant funding under the Village SOS scheme, which is to be used, in part, to develop their broadband services.
Anne Moyle, local resident and chair of Newton and Bywell Connects explains: “A Parish planning exercise was undertaken last year, involving all 148 households in the parish. From this, it was clear that inadequate broadband services and rising fuel charges were the two biggest issues for our community. We have now formed a local member scheme to obtain bulk buying discounts on fuel and have looked at various alternatives to address the broadband situation”
The group formed a community enterprise and initially applied for funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) under their Rural Community Broadband Fund. Unfortunately, this early bid was unsuccessful. Undeterred, the group applied to the Village SOS scheme, operated by the Big Lottery Fund, which has now proved a success.
Anne explained: “We began a test phase earlier this summer to provide a wireless broadband service in partnership with Wildcard Networks. Wildcard have been providing a wireless broadband network to the nearby Newcastle University site at Nafferton Farm and offered to extend this to 20 properties in the parish. The first homes were connected at the end of August, and the results have been excellent.”
The funding from the Village SOS project will allow the community to install wireless relay hubs throughout the parish, essentially creating a wireless mesh to extend the reach of the network to more properties.
Anne added: “We now provide a free internet service from our community hall where we consistently achieve download speeds of 20 mbps and upload speeds of 8 mbps. This is in a totally different league from what we could expect with the previous service where most of our residents achieved less than 1mbps. Working in partnership with Wildcard under their LiveWave Broadband service we will extend this service to more homes in 2013.”
The rest of the grant funding is to be used to offer a range of support to local residents including computer and internet training, as well as promoting the activities of the Community Enterprise. With an enthusiastic group within the Parish it means that they have a number of plans for the forthcoming year.
Anne added: “We’ve come a long way with the project so far. By attempting to resolve the broadband issue we have brought together residents of all ages and moved onto discussions about other issues that are important to our community.
The award of the Village SOS grant has shown what working together and determination can achieve.”
For further details please visit www.newtonandbywell.org (external link)