Following my previous post about better broadband for north Powys, I tried to do some initial investigation on Facebook to see if this was something that would have enough interest to investigate further. I posted on local pages, mainly for villages in the Tanat valley, asking if people would be interested. Overall I was happy with the responses, and felt it warranted further investigation.
I have been in contact with B4RN to investigating the feasibility of working with them to connect to their existing Cheshire network, to bring high speed broadband to our local area, initially the Tanat valley and maybe the Cain valley areas, but there’s potential for the coverage area to grow.
For context B4RN now cover thousands of properties, over an area from Preston to Tebay and from Carnforth to Settle. That’s like the whole of Montgomeryshire (from several miles north west of Oswestry down past Llanidloes, and from Welshpool to Machynlleth). So that shows that not only is such a scheme possible, but that it can grow to benefit adjacent areas.
What would it cost to build and run such a network?
Initial rough estimates, based on B4RN’s experience are that the build cost of the network to each property is usually in the range of £1500 per property, though this may rise to £2500 for more complex properties
The cost of backhaul connectivity (i.e. connecting out network to the existing network in Cheshire would be around £22,000 per annum.
What would it cost to use?
B4RN’s existing prices are a £150 installation fee (waived if you invest £1500 in shares), then £30 per month.
How many people would be needed to make the scheme viable?
The initial estimate is that 250 properties would be needed for the scheme to be viable. The Tanat valley has around 1400 properties, and a 30% take up would yield 420 properties.
What financial help is available?
There are existing government voucher schemes, both from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and from Welsh government to assist with the costs of installing gigabit broadband. According to the Welsh government Gigabit Broadband voucher scheme web page, “for group projects in Wales up to £5,500 is available per business and up to £800 is available per residential property”. This could cover a large part of the build cost.
What areas would be covered?
Initially the Tanat valley is the area where most opinion has been canvassed. This includes: Llangynog; Hirnant; Penybontfawr; Llanrhaeadr-Ym-Mochnant; Rhos-y-Brithdir; Llangedwyn; Pen-y-Bont Llanerch Emrys.
There was also some interest expressed from the Cain valley. This includes: Llanfyllin; Llanfechain; Llansantffraid-Ym-Mechain.
What is needed next?
The next step is to try and get more people interested in the idea, see if we can get advocates, and people to sign up.