Rural community builds own FTTP broadband network

Not-for-profit brings 150Mb/s connectivity to Kilkenny-Waterford-Tipperary border
Life
Jim O’Brien, Broadband 4 Our Community; Paul Walsh; Declan Rice, CEO, Kilkenny Leader; Vernon Buckley; and Kate Foley of Iverk Produce/O’Shea Farm. Credit: Dylan Vaughan

7 March 2022

A not-for-profit volunteer-led company that has delivered access 150Mb/s connectivity to 750 homes and businesses close to the Kilkenny-Waterford-Tipperary border.

Serving the town of Piltown and Fiddown, and surrounding areas Broadband 4 Our Community (B4OC) has given hmes and businesses in the locality access to speeds up to 150Mb/s.

B4OC’s vision was first mooted by Kilkenny Leader Partnership (KLP) in 2019. “KLP and its philanthropic funding partner, the Tomar Trust, supplied technical assistance, planning, training and capital funding to the community to develop and advance the project. After that, the community drove on and did everything else,” said project manager Jim O’Brien.

 

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“Businesses donated bits, gave us other items we needed at cost and dug deep with us. My own father-in-law is a retired fitter and he has been out in the trenches and up poles with me as we built the infrastructure. All of this has been built on private lands and sits into the landscape. We’ve now completed Phase 1 and have a few phases to go.”

Piltown and Fiddown, are among approximately 20 similar-sized villages and towns in Kilkenny that were classified ias having ‘adequate broadband’ according to an EU standard set in 2010 and therefore not considered for investment under the National Broadband Plan.

“This is a network in which our community is invested,” said B4OC chairman Brian Doyle. “Given that laying fibre-optic cable is expensive, using the future-proofed FTTP model employed by the telecommunications industry was the only way forward.

“Doing it mostly ourselves meant that our costs were greatly reduced. This is a service by the community, for the community which is owned by the community and run in its interest. It is a much leaner development model and operates on a not-for profit community-owned basis. We even hope to be able to pay a community dividend and the intention is that this money would finance other community projects.”

Kilkenny Leader Partnership CEO Declan Rice added: “Community development and ownership of future proofed FTTP networks should be as familiar as local ‘group water schemes’, of which there are many hundreds. Installing FTTP networks is not rocket science, in many ways it’s easier than a group water scheme to install.

“While a fibre network will require some seed money to get started, and needs wider landowner and community cooperation, as Piltown-Fiddown has shown, it can be done. By developing and crucially retaining ownership of the fibre network, a community takes charge of its digital future. It can set a cost that the community can bear, not that which the commercial market will maximise. And it can, in addition to having a maintenance fund, use some of the additional income to support other community projects. Piltown-Fiddown doesn’t have to be the exception, it should just be the pioneer.”

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