Village rises to broadband challenge

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Plans to offer a futuristic internet connection to a Lune Valley village are taking shape.

Lancaster based Broadband For Rural North (B4RN) is currently exploring how to connect Halton to fibre broadband, which would provide connection speeds “20-30 years” ahead of its time.

A new broadband cabinet is currently being constructed at The Centre@Halton in Low Road, which will provide internet to the community centre, and subsequently to St Wilfrid’s Primary School in Pennystone Road.

The plan is then to run underground fibre cables to every household that wanted it.

Halton has a population of 2,277 and around 1,500 houses, and running fibre cables underground in a village this size is not without its challenges, explains Robb Thompson, from B4RN Halton.

“It only takes one person/household for us to have to stop, think,and scratch our heads a fair bit,” Robb said.

“This results in us having to come up with alternative ideas, or routes, or spend an enormous amount of time and energy explaining, and convincing, the few reluctant villagers we encounter why this is good for the community.

“If Halton became lucky enough to have fibre to the home provided by one of the major companies, it can be shown that the cost of the service provided, by BT as an example, would be far greater than B4RN’s charges for the same service by a considerable amount.”

He added: “What we are doing here is giving ourselves a network 20-30 years ahead of when it would arrive via a major provider, and saving money against the cost of these services from the start, as well as into the future.”

Jonny Murton, who is also taking a lead on the Halton project, said this was the most urbanised of the B4RN campaigns.

There are more landowners to engage with and agree a route, more hardstanding areas which are more difficult for laying ducting/cables than open fields, a bigger network of underground gas, water, electrical and telecommunication cables, and more health and safety issues, he said.

“We are not alone with the challenges we are encountering as other villages such as Hornby, Arkholme, Ingleton and Silverdale have had similar issues and found solutions,” he added.

“The support and encouragement from other B4RN campaigns and B4RN HQ has been invaluable.

“We have the route from the community centre to St Wilfrid’s Primary School agreed and will be working with volunteers to start laying the cables underground along this route.

B4RN is already serving Halton Hydro, several businesses in Halton Mill, Connect to Clean Rooms at Riverside House, Light Technologies in Wenning House, Out of the Woods, Lara Nichols and around 45 residential properties on Mill Lane and School House Lane.”

For more information, visit www.b4rn.haltoncentre.org, or call 01524 548313.