Lancaster based community broadband organisation B4RN - which provides some of the fastest internet speeds in the world - has launched a £3m crowdfunding initiative.
According to Ofcom 1.1m (four per cent) of premises in the UK cannot get ‘decent’ broadband and almost two-thirds of premises in rural areas are without superfast broadband coverage.
B4RN already delivers the fastest fibre optic broadband connection in the UK to over 5,000 rural homes, businesses and schools in the North West and more recently in East Anglia.
B4RN is now looking to raise £3m to fund the continued roll-out of its full fibre network in more rural communities – the aim being to quadruple its network in the next five years.
As a community benefit society, its profits are reinvested back into the community in a variety of ways, for example by providing internet service to schools in its network free of charge.
The organisation has been established for eight years and is owned by its 2,500 members.
Its community-based approach means it can install cables at a significantly reduced cost by working directly with local residents and rural landowners, gaining access across their land rather than digging up roads.
B4RN customers are now among the five per cent of properties in the UK that have access to full fibre (one gigabit capable) broadband.
The organisation is benefitting from the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which contributes to the installation costs of gigabit-capable broadband connections.
The bond will pay 4.5 per cent gross interest per year for its seven-year term and the minimum investment is £50.
As with all investments, capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed.
Barry Forde, chief executive of B4RN, said: “The issue of a lack of decent broadband in rural Britain is an everyday problem for its residents and businesses, and yet it needn’t be. We have overcome challenges the large providers were just simply unprepared to take on and by working as a community we have managed to bring the UK’s fastest broadband to some of the UK’s most rural areas.
“By crowdfunding through Triodos we can connect more and more rural properties, which makes a huge difference to everyone living and working in those communities, and local schools benefit from free broadband. I am proud of what we have achieved so far, but through this bond offer I am very excited about our future and the impact we can have for rural UK communities.”
Dan Hird, head of Corporate Finance at Triodos Bank, said: “We are delighted to be working with B4RN to help them raise the capital they need to expand their vital service. B4RN is an innovative social enterprise demonstrating that a community approach can deliver a state-of-the-art broadband network in rural networks. It is sure to be of interest to investors that would like to support pioneering organisations delivering positive change.”
B4RN published an offer document dated February 2019. Applications can only be made on the basis of, and subject to, the terms and conditions of the information contained in the offer document which includes the terms and conditions of the Triodos Crowdfunding website www.triodoscrowdfunding.co.uk.