Community goes it alone on broadband

A community in the west of the county has set an example to others in the rural north by finding its own solution to its broadband woes.

The residents of Newton and Bywell have secured £10,019 of grant funding under the Village SOS scheme, which is to be used, in part, for broadband.

Anne Moyle, local resident and chairman of Newton and Bywell Connects, said: “A parish planning exercise was undertaken last year, involving all 148 households in the parish.

“From this, it was clear that inadequate broadband services and rising fuel charges were the two biggest issues for our community.”

Following an initial consultation meeting in their local, the group formed a community enterprise, Newton & Bywell Connects.

Since then they have pulled together a new social group and are working alongside the parish council and community hall trustees to meet the needs of local residents.

On the broadband issue, Anne said: “We began a test phase earlier this summer to provide a wireless broadband service in partnership with Wildcard Networks.

“Wildcard have been providing a wireless broadband network to the nearby Newcastle University site at Nafferton Farm and offered to extend this to 20 properties in the parish. The first homes were connected at the end of August, and the results have been excellent.”

The funding from the Village SOS project will allow the community to install wireless relay hubs throughout the parish, essentially creating a wireless mesh to extend the reach of the network to more properties.

“We now provide a free internet service from our community hall where we consistently achieve download speeds of 20mbps and upload speeds of 8mbps,” Anne said.

“This is in a totally different league from what we could expect with the previous service where most of our residents achieved less than 1mbps.

“Working in partnership with Wildcard under their LiveWave Broadband service we will extend this service to more homes in 2013.”

“We’ve come a long way with the project so far. By attempting to resolve the broadband issue we have brought together residents of all ages and moved onto discussions about other issues that are important to our community.”

Visit www.inorthumberland.org.uk to back the bid.