What are community fibre projects?Posted on 20 July 2021 by Beaming Support
Community fibre projects are a way for households or businesses in areas with slow broadband speeds to club together and bring fibre optic connectivity to the local area.
There are still a few areas in the UK that have not yet been reached by superfast broadband (also known as fibre to the cabinet or FTTC), so these projects may focus on upgrading to this. Increasingly, though, community fibre projects are used to install fibre to the premises (FTTP) or “full fibre” broadband.
How does it work?
There are various UK organisations that build the infrastructure needed to connect homes and businesses to the internet. They dig up roads, lay cables and install streetside cabinets, among other things, and you may have heard of some of them: examples include OpenReach, City Fibre and Hyperoptic.
When a community fibre project is formed, the community joins up with one of these infrastructure providers to jointly fund the project. Community funding may come through grants, fundraising, personal or business investment.
What’s the difference between a community fibre project and a community-owned ISP?
With the necessary infrastructure in place, members of the community are free to choose their own internet service providers from those already existing, but some choose to take it a step further and create their own community internet service provider. This isn’t something just anyone can do; in-depth knowledge is needed to design the network, and further investment in equipment such as routers and switches will be necessary.
And what is a community-minded ISP?
Some internet service providers refer to themselves as “Community-minded”, “Community-focused” or just as a “Community ISP”, but are different to the types of projects outlined above.
This type of ISP is not owned or run by a community group (though it may well be a locally-owned business with a specific interest in the area) but is still focused on bringing faster internet speeds to a particular area and installs the infrastructure needed to do that. Usually, they will prioritise their work based on demand and often act as both infrastructure builder and internet service provider once that’s in place.
By improving internet access, employing local people and attracting business to the local area, these ISPs help the communities they operate in. This is absolutely something to take into consideration when you’re choosing a provider for your business internet connection – it’s great to support your local community – but you’ll still want to consider some other factors, too, so take a look at our guide to choosing a broadband provider for your small business to find out what questions you’ll need to ask of any ISP, community-minded, independent, national or otherwise.