Title:Community Broadband Networks and Rural Digital Divide: A UK Case Study
TitleEtc:, Ph.D. Student, Northumbria University, United Kingdom
Abstract:Community broadband networks have recently emerged as an alternative to both public and private players in the delivery of superfast broadband in rural areas. The impact of these initiatives upon the rural digital divide is, however, largely unknown. Focusing on Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN), a community FTTH network in the UK, this paper explores how a community-led initiative can contribute to bridging the access, adoption and outcome divides in rural areas. Following a bottom-up and demand-driven model, B4RN has managed to expand the supply and demand of superfast broadband in remote areas previously ignored by commercial and subsidised deployments. Its overall impact upon the rural digital divide has been constrained by the small scale of the project as well as its reliance on private contributions. Although it may not be replicable on a national scale and suitable for large organisations, the approach developed by B4RN confirms that involving local communities in the design and execution of broadband projects help minimising both access and adoption divides in rural communities.