Back in April 2013, we visited the ambitious and determined folk spear-heading the Fibre GarDen initiative in the North West. There, two communities had come together to provide super-fast internet connectivity to around 750 households – to alleviate digital poverty and take what may yet prove to be the single most important step towards preventing the area’s decline. We would support them to bid for funds from the Adventure Capital Fund, and the tenacity of local residents has since paid off, with the ‘big dig’ now imminent!
We’ve also worked with the Lyme Regis Development Trust (LRDT) to explore the potential to install a community owned and managed telecommunications network on the Dorset coast over the course of the past eighteen months. The work to establish “Digital Lyme” built upon the pilot LRDT undertook in conjunction with the Creative Coop and Guifi.net during 2011-12, is intended to enhance the Trust’s ambitious plans to establish a Jurassic Coast Studies Centre working with an array of local as well as national partners, and culminated in national coverage which we hope will help them move to scale over the coming year.
But, today, we’re especially pleased to share the outcomes from the pioneering Digital Merthyr initiative – where local residents have successfully worked with partners and key stakeholders to deliver affordable broadband and local digital services underpinned by a community-owned open, hybrid and symmetrical telecommunications network with support from Nominet Trust.
We’ve talked before about the need to rethink broadband infrastructure investment and development in the UK. We’ve followed disgruntled communities seeking government funding for rural community broadband projects in the interim. We’ve also commented upon the way in which official statistics unhelpfully (and, in many respects, inaccurately) portray deprived communities as ‘uninterested’ in accessing the internet.
Digital Merthyr demonstrates that communities can tackle digital exclusion for themselves, develop their digital ambitions, and acquire vitally important STEM skills along the way. And, with plans to scale and replicate the initiative over the weeks and months ahead, as well as considerable interest from communities elsewhere in the country, we look forward to the next chapter in the story of these Open Network Pioneers!
Download: Digital Merthyr – Final Report