Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet United Kingdom News

British Farmers Growing Their Own Internet Service 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the bring-tucows-over-to-spread-e-fertilizer dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "Look outside of your window: if you see miles of farmland, chances are you have terrible internet service. That's because major telecommunications companies don't think it's worth the investment to bring high-speed broadband to sparsely populated areas. But like most businesses, farms increasingly depend on the internet to pay bills, monitor the market and communicate with partners. In the face of a sluggish connection, what's a group of farmers to do? Grow their own, naturally. That's what the people of Lancashire, England, are doing. Last year, a coalition of local farmers and others from the northwestern British county began asking local landowners if they could use their land to begin laying a brand-new community-owned high-speed network, sparing them the expense of tearing up roads. Then, armed with shovels and backhoes, the group, called Broadband for the Rural North, or B4RN (it's pronounced 'barn'), began digging the first of what will be approximately 180,000 meters of trenches and filling them with fiber-optic cable, all on its own."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

British Farmers Growing Their Own Internet Service

Comments Filter:
  • Memphis Light Gas and Water have been laying cables with fiber optic cores since the 1970s. If only the law allows them to offer Internet service - fiber to the houses, at prices unseen before in the United States.

    They could have it as good as the Google Fiber Hood. But... too much entrenched interests.

    • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:50PM (#43029389)

      The city of Tacoma has their own fiber network. Put in by their power company [click-network.com] for the purpose of controlling their substations, it turned out to have some extra capacity. Some Eastern Washington State power PUDs, awash in cash from their hydro power sales have strung fiber around their largely rural, agricultural service territories as well.

      Since then, the telcoms have sought legislative injunctions against public utilities implementing new systems. And the private utility I used to work for was scared sh*tless about their wrath to the point of never putting in fiber even restricted to their own internal requirements.

      • by the_B0fh (208483)

        why? lack of balls :\

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:42PM (#43031085)

        Telecoms lose money in rural areas. Even with phone service. This has been a problem since the invention of the telephone. The solution? Give the telephone company monopoly over a large area, but require them by law to provide service to rural residents. Just how far rural they go will be negotiated between the local municipality and the telco. Putting in rural service is not profitable, but the telco can raise rates in the metropolitan areas to make up the difference.

        Now, some jackass comes along claiming free market and starts selling his own service. He offers it to whomever he likes, is under no obligation to provide service to anyone, and can undercut the telco in the easiest to serve markets. If you want free and open competition in these markets, that's fine. But you need to lift the regulations the telcos are under before you can do that. There are some areas of the country were the local phone company is required by law to maintain dialtone and 911 service even if the house is vacant or condemned. Just in case some homeless person needs to use the phone. How can a company that has to do maintain service like that compete with random competitors that have no such obligations? A free and open market for internet service means NO rural internet service at all. Simple as that. It's not profitable, and an open market means it can't exist.

        • by PPH (736903)

          That's what we call universal service for telephones. But the phone companies are under no such obligation to provide uniform broadband service. They cherry-pick the markets just like everyone else for this product.

          Now, if they want a monopoly to keep the "jackasses" out with broadband, they are going to have to provide uniform service to rural as well as profitable urban markets on an equal price basis. With regulated terms of service, utilities commission oversight, common carrier status and a bunch of o

          • Telcos are required by law to provide broadband in some areas, just like they are phone service. It's entirely up to the local government. Some areas have such requirements, some do not. The problem with such requirements is that to provide the required service, the rates inside the towns and villages go up substantially. This isn't an easy sell for local politicians.

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @04:44AM (#43032253) Journal

          Telecoms lose money in rural areas. Even with phone service

          That's debatable. The value of the phone network is that it can reach pretty much anyone that you want to be able to reach. A phone network that only covered major cities would be a lot less valuable to everyone. Lots of people didn't bother getting phones until coverage was almost universal, because there's no point if they can't use it to call their rural relatives. You may lose money on the individual lines, but you gain money from all of the people who join because those lines exist.

          • That's true. But it only works as an argument for a monopoly supplier. In a free market, you have a tragedy of the commons scenario, where all can see that 100% coverage would be advantageous to the technology, but none of the individual suppliers wants to be the one to put the money into those rural areas.

            It MIGHT work, if there's a limited number of suppliers and they successfully negotiate to split the costs. But there's nothing in free market pressures that make that likely. The instinct to compete is u

        • by FreekyGeek (19819)

          Wait just a minute, WE pay for those services, not the telco. Haven't you ever looked at your phone bill and wondered what all those extra taxes they add on are for? I mean, besides enriching themselves by making us pay for their expenses?

          In any other business, the taxes are included in the price as part of the cost of doing business. but cable companyes and telcos seem to feel that they're special, so they advertises lower prices and then make you pay for their business expenses. Does Wal-Mart make you

    • by Khyber (864651)

      "Memphis Light Gas and Water have been laying cables with fiber optic cores since the 1970s"

      And you'll never get a piece of that considering MLGW vbuilt that for their own measurements/price control.

      Hi, I used to work for MLGW for a tiny period of time as a subcontractor.

      • by the_B0fh (208483)

        Only because they are prohibited to do so by law. The people who built it want to use it. But they can only use it for the internal stuff

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      too much entrenched interests.

      I see what you did there.

    • by sycodon (149926)

      That's it right there. The big companies have been using the law to stifle competition.

      If a group people tried to do what B4RN is doing there'd be lawyers in their fancy suits and expensive shoes stumbling about in the field, trying to stop them.

      This is what happens with Government sanctioned monopolies.

  • Or... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:29PM (#43029253)

    You could just lobby your legislators to pass a law requiring ISPs to provide sparse areas with cheap broadband access, effectively subsidizing the internet costs of a few by raising rate on everyone else. I mean that's how government works right? Everyone lobbies their legislature for special favors until everyone has special favors and everyone is paying for everyone else's stuff in addition to providing much needed jobs for lawyers, lobbyists, politicians, regulators, etc.

    Forming a private cooperative to build their own internet infrastructure seems like a perversion of the crony capitalist system that is the foundation of western society.

    • Re:Or... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:36PM (#43029303)

      Forming a private cooperative to build their own internet infrastructure seems like a perversion of the crony capitalist system that is the foundation of western society.

      Oh please. You know what's "crony capitalist?" Bullshit like states banning municipal broadband at the demand of local telco monopolies so that they don't have to compete with better service.

      We've already tried forcing them to spread into more rural areas, all they did was raise rates and mark up impressive profits.

      • Must I add /s to everything?
        • by Microlith (54737)

          Perhaps you should, because there are people who genuinely believe what you wrote.

          • by quenda (644621)

            The tone was obviously sarcastic, but it is normal all over the world for utilities to provide gas/water/electricity/telephone to rural areas at the same price as city customers pay, or at least heavily subsidised. This works best with natural monopolies, but runs into trouble when there are competing providers.
            You may have to deal with competitors who want to cherry-pick the most profitable customers, and ignore others.

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          Er, in this case, maybe you should. You sounded quite similar to what many people seem to actually argue these days. :|

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        Neither you, nor my GP, appear to have the slightest clue what "capitalist" means.

        The GP describes a (presumably) democratic socialist state and then calls it capitalism. Wrong.

        Parent describes yet another form of Marxist principle implementation - state run or controlled industry, such as became the case in eg. Germany, Italy, and Russia, and It and calls it crony capitalist. (It's also called just totalitarianism, and a hundred other things like neo-feudalism, but capitalist it is not.)

        • Can you enlighten us then, what is capitalism for you?

          I understand capitalism as an advanced commodity economy, where labour itself became a commodity. The free market is just one form of capitalism, and not a stable one either, since competition leads to winners and in the next round the free market already biased toward these winners to the point that those winners became eventually the ones who dictate the rules. All what I know about capitalism isn't in contrast of what you call "democratic socialist st

    • Re:Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mk1004 (2488060) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:44PM (#43029357)
      Power and telephone service to rural areas were subsidized in the US, back before everyone got the "no one else can play with my stuff" attitude that permeates this country today. Internet access could be done the same way, and probably would have been if it had been developed in the '50s. For that matter, nationalized healthcare probably could have been done too. Yes, I'm sure some people didn't like the power/telephone subsidizes back then, but there were enough people who thought it was the right thing to do.
      • Well, I have electric service, but WTF happened to telephone out here in "the sticks"? The ILEC says I can have a line for ~250K USD - I can't afford that!
    • by Tailhook (98486)

      until everyone has special favors and everyone is paying for everyone else's stuff in addition to providing much needed jobs for lawyers, lobbyists, politicians, regulators, etc.

      "We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy's pocket."

            — Frank Sobotka, The Wire.

    • by ewieling (90662)
      First of all, the government ALREADY forces phone companies to provide rural service, effectively subsidizing the telephone costs of a few by raising rate on everyone else. I don't have a problem with that, but it is easy to corrupt the idea if there is not enough oversight. For example, when AT&T bought Bellsouth there was all sorts of talk about AT&T rolling out a major rural broadband upgrade -- as far as I know this never happened.

      I would rather the local government grant a temporary monopoly
      • 1. I was being sarcastic 2. This was a story about British farmers and you are talking about the US government and American companies.
        • 2. This was a story about British farmers and you are talking about the US government and American companies.

          Did you actually RTFA? it started off about british farmers but it quickly shifted to the USA.

          • When you refer to "the government" in a context where multiple countries are involved, it doesn't make any sense.
            • actually, it does make sense.

              people are people and countries are imaginary lines.

              controlling classes are controlling classes.

              this is human-wide. not country-specific.

      • Re:Or... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @08:13PM (#43029603)

        In all seriousness why do we want access in rural areas to be subsidized? If it is expensive to bring access to these places, why shouldn't it be the ones who want it to pay for it?

        Economies of scale is one of the benefits of living in an urban area. You get cheap internet, cheap water, cheap electricity, cheap garbage collection, cheap sewer, etc. When you live out in the boonies the land is cheap, but you don;t get the benefits of living in a metropolis.

        If you want to live in the forest, that's awesome. If you want high speed internet in the forest, then I support allowing you to have the fewest restrictions possible to allow you to pay for that getting that infrastructure yourself. I don't think it's fair to subsidize rural internet costs anymore than it would be fair to subsidize rent in urban because it's "too expensive". The free market decides what things cost, and we should be trying to achieve a free market (externalities accounted for) so that everyone pays the true cost of what they consume (people, corporations, everybody).

        • Re:Or... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tibit (1762298) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @08:31PM (#43029757)

          Are you serious? Rural America votes, and their votes affect you. Do you really want them not to have at least potential access to the wealth of knowledge and "dissent" that Internet offers? Consider the alternatives: they'll only listen to the local ClearChannel station and watch Fox News OTA. I'm not saying an average Joe Redneck is reading random wikipedia article each day to edify himself, but your way of thinking makes it not merely improbable: it becomes impossible.

          • There aren't that many people in rural america. By definition it's the part with less people. The last census indicated that only 16% of Americans live in rural areas. Also, they already have internet, they just don't have internet that is as fast for the price as in the city on average. You don't need fast internet to read a newspaper or Wikipedia article.

            In order for rural people to get Fox News, it means they have basic cable or satellite TV. Fox News is only 1 television station. I know people who

            • In order for rural people to get Fox News, it means they have basic cable or satellite TV.

              Wrong. Before calbe and satalite, people had these things called television ``stations'' that broadcast over radio waves. Many are still in operation. Fox affiliate stations broadcast pretty much everywhere. With a 30 year old TV and a bent-up metal clothes hanger you can usually get pretty good reception on at least a couple Fox stations. CBS and NBC are pretty flaky, and PBS is there, but it sucks.

              • And before cable there were fox affiliate stations that had news programs. This is different than "Fox News Channel", a cable channel, that was created in 1996 and I am pretty sure is what tibit was referring to.
        • Mostly so stuff like, you know, food, keeps flowing, ... mostly. It's hard to compete with Kraft when it takes 3 months to download the satellite data to plan out exactly where every grain of wheat falls.
          • So internet to rural areas need to be subsidized to help them make more money? Why don't we just cut out the middle man and send them a check.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          I don't think we want everyone to just pile into the cities.

        • benefits of living in a metropolis.

          When you say benefits, you mean like having someone living directly above, beside and below you at all times, subject to whatever noise your neighbors constantly put out? Or do you mean the constant drone of traffic out your window with the accompanying fumes it produces?

          Maybe you meant the fact there is no green grass out your front door to walk in bare feet but instead have to take a bus, ride a bike (through traffic) or subway just to find green grass. Then
          • Well when I said "benefits of living in a metropolis", I was referring to the *benefits* not the disadvantages.

            Furthermore, not everyone living in a city has all the disadvantages you described. I live in the outskirts of San Diego. I live in a 2 story house. I have green grass and trees in my front and back yards. I can't really hear the traffic, but I can hear airplanes. I have windows open all the time. I don;t get any fumes. San Diego does but a bit hot in the summer, but I thought that was a goo

    • by alen (225700)

      in the USA all the tiny hick towns make the carriers build them yarn museums and other crap in town as a sign of gratitude of being allowed to sell their services in the town

    • by Bengie (1121981)
      Hooking up a farm is only 2-3x more expensive than hooking up an apartment in the middle of the city. Based on the case-studies and research for Minnesota, hooking up farms actually increases the net-income of the state more than the cost of connecting the farms.

      In other words, the oppertunity cost of not trenching fiber to a farm 35mi out of the city is more than the cost of trenching it.

      Funny how that works.
      • by tibit (1762298)

        Especially that in the rural areas you can really trench very quickly as there's almost no other infrastructure to deal with -- just soil and an occasional road, usually unpaved.

      • So if the state would be making a lot of money by bringing internet to rural areas, that means the people living in these rural areas would save a lot of money by doing it themselves. The question is whether this money does more good in the hands of the residents of these towns or in the general fund of whichever level of government.
        • by plopez (54068)

          "that means the people living in these rural areas would save a lot of money by doing it themselves"

          You are forgetting that the individual usually cannot make such a large upfront capital investment. So it is a good way for governments to invest in the PUBLIC interest and provide services the individual may not be able to provide for themselves.

          • I never said it was done by individuals. A group of individuals can form a cooperative and take on big projects like the ones described in the article.

            The government itself is a cooperative formed by it's citizens. Ideally this cooperative would be working for the best interest of it's members, but as Bengie pointed out, this government cooperative would actually be profiting from it's members.

            If this profit is significant enough, then it makes financial sense to form a cooperative and perform the work in

    • Right on! :) Yay for cronies!

  • It's a race (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paiute (550198) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @07:34PM (#43029293)
    Who will be faster - the ditch diggers or the telecom lobbyists demanding the end to such community ditch digging?
    • by idontgno (624372)

      I would be curious what (probably bullshit) legal theory the telecom lobby would use?

      Unless it's brown envelopes stuffed with banknotes. That I could easily imagine. But that just transfers the problem to the legislators being lobbied. what legal theory would those fine citizens use to advocate for this kind of restriction to community action?

      Watching evil in action can be fascinating.

    • Re:It's a race (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @08:07PM (#43029545)

      Who will be faster - the ditch diggers or the telecom lobbyists demanding the end to such community ditch digging?

      You do realise this is a story about Britain, don't you? Maybe it's different where you're from but here BT really couldn't give a monkey's what farmers get up to in the places where they themselves can't be bothered to lay down decent lines. Nor do they "lobby" together with their competitors... on account of them not really having any when it comes to telephone infrastructure.

      I might as well just give up hope of ever getting a story about the UK where the comments section isn't nearly-instantly filled with Americans who have very little idea of how things are different here and instead of asking questions - never mind insightful or thought-provoking ones - just post comments about how it would work in places that the story isn't referring to. Anything that is worth reading just ends up buried in a sea of irrelevances.

      • by LingNoi (1066278)

        Exactly! Queue the posts about how "slashdot is a US website and if you don't like it then leave".

      • by paiute (550198)

        Who will be faster - the ditch diggers or the telecom lobbyists demanding the end to such community ditch digging?

        You do realise this is a story about Britain, don't you?

        Yes, we realize that in England BT is a 15 billion quid company with a heart of gold which would never hire a lobbyist but shows its displeasure with harrumphs and a brandished brolly and that there is always more gruel.

        • by dkf (304284)

          Yes, we realize that in England BT is a 15 billion quid company with a heart of gold which would never hire a lobbyist but shows its displeasure with harrumphs and a brandished brolly and that there is always more gruel.

          The key thing for people in the US to realize here is that there is nothing like the same extent of regulatory capture [wikipedia.org] in the UK, and it is actually possible for the people doing this to get connected to the wider world without ever dealing with BT at all (just use one of the other business ISPs who run fiber to the customer). If the landowners are happy, it's not causing a hazard, and there's people willing to do it, who would have the standing to put a stop to it?

          But truly, BT don't care because these are

      • by Xest (935314)

        You say that, but in South Yorkshire the councils grouped together to create the Digital Region project because BT outright said they weren't going to roll out any fibre there deeming it not cost effective.

        As soon as the project started, BT suddenly decided to roll out fibre to the exact same addresses as Digital Region which has left Digital Region no longer commercially viable against the backdrop of competition from BT and so the DR project looks like it's basically going to die, then BT wont roll out to

        • by dkf (304284)

          BT cares, BT cares about holding onto it's nationwide monopoly no matter what. If you want BT fibre in your area the best way to do it is to setup a scheme that will compete against BT, you'll see Openreach vans turn up with fancy new cabinets in no time. It knows full well that it's biggest long term threat is local projects that turn into competing telcos over time. I guarantee if this project in TFA starts to cover more than a handful of houses, BT will get interested all of a sudden.

          The difference with the US is that BT is dealing with these things by improving provision instead of by getting their friends in the government from making it illegal for anyone to build out the fiber at all. The difference is that people at least gain access to the improved service (if possibly at excessively high prices) and that's a huge difference; the (near) monopoly is contributing to the Public Good.

          • by Xest (935314)

            "the (near) monopoly is contributing to the Public Good."

            Not at all. The monopoly is being used to block growth of competition, retaining artificially high costs, artificially low investment and preventing rollout to many other areas.

            In a truly competitive marketplace, the cost would be lower, investment in infrastructure would be higher due to competition, and they'd be fighting consistently to rollout everywhere. If there was a true competitor to BT in the UK they would be fighting each other to rollout t

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Lobbyists? Don't be silly, they'll not waste their time with elected officials for this one. They've already bought them, as well as the regulatory positions they help create.

      These ditch diggers will probably get slapped with something outrageous. I'd wager something relating to environmental impact and destruction, having not completed the proper impact analysis forms and commenced with a multiyear study of how the purple wren's natural habitat will be impacted and....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @08:23PM (#43029691)

    There was a time when the same sort of thing would happen in the USA, but who in the USA today would dare run afoul of one of the literally thousands of Federal regulations that MIGHT apply to them?

    The Federal government is so powerful that it's created a generation of Americans that sit frozen unable to solve problems for themselves out of fear that some distance authority will swoop in and punish them. There is nothing anymore that can be done without their permission.
    Land of the free and home of the brave? Hardly.

    I have a pretty radical socialist Czech friend living in the US that said that the problem with American politics is that it requires everyone agree. Every problem has to solved at the federal level and it prevents things from getting done.

    When even a European socialist complains that the US central government is too powerful, you know there is a problem.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's still a few of us out there that embrace the American spirit that made our country. The problem is that we have to keep a low profile and stick to trusted circle of friends/family/associates to avoid being prosecuted for being innovative.

      It was really screwed up when I had to redo a section of my roof and a city inspector came onto my property saying I needed either to pay for a permit or hire a contractor. The only thing that saved my ass is that I have a fenced in yard and driveway and a habit of

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Yeah, I agree with you. Though as a caveat, a Czech socialist is kind of like a Belgian redneck capitalist in ideology. The Czech Republic seems to be one of the few marginally functional, economically sane, governments in that part of the world.

  • by Pax681 (1002592) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @02:13AM (#43031741)
    it might be North West England but it's middle-ish of Britain ......
    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=54.040038,-2.758484&hl=en&ll=54.085173,1.625977&spn=7.764374,26.784668&num=1&t=h&z=6 [google.com]
    mind you the wa things are going Scotland will leave the UK next year anyways... still for accuracy's sake.. at the moment it's NOWHERE NEAR NORTH WEST BRITAIN!
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Britain is the name of the island. The countries within it are Scotland, England and Wales.

      Saying that Lancashire is in the middle of Britain is about as useful as saying that Texas is in the middle of (the continent of North and South) America.

      • by Pax681 (1002592)

        Britain is the name of the island. The countries within it are Scotland, England and Wales.

        Saying that Lancashire is in the middle of Britain is about as useful as saying that Texas is in the middle of (the continent of North and South) America.

        it IS in the middle and the lower middle at that geographically. While it may well be in the North West of ENGLAND ,it, as i said before, is NOWHERE near the North West of "Britain".
        Also point to note if you are going to try and be a pedant about what is "British" then you might as well learn that Ireland, both North and South are part of the British Isles [wikipedia.org] , granted that's a geographical term as opposed to a geopolitical one.
        however the English obsession with the geography of "Britain" Ending North of

  • Similar community-driven projects have been carried out in other EU countries, such as Finland.

    Here’s one such example from the region that geographically centers around Töysä [google.com] – a small rural community of 3,000 people – and its neighboring towns/municipalities, some of which are a bit larger, but not much:

    Verkko-osuuskunta Kuuskaista (The Network Co-operative Kuuskaista) [kuuskaista.com]

    6net+ core network [6net.fi] (a PowerPoint presentation)

  • Some hired noobs have the innate, breathtaking ability to bottom a plow completely below ground.
  • And they're doing it all with components built by Lucas!

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.

Working...