B4NTR is a community group which aims to bring FULL-FIBRE 1000 Mbps broadband to parishes in the North Tyne and Redesdale area of rural Northumberland. We’ve listed an initial 17 parishes – Bavington, Birtley, Brinkburn, Capheaton, Chollerton, Corsenside, Elsdon, Hepple, Hesleyhurst, Hollinghill, Kirkwhelpington, Longhorsley, Nunnykirk, Otterburn, Rothley, Netherwitton, Wallington Demesne – for the project, however this is very early days and this by no means confirms all the parishes above will be included in the final project.

Much of the initial roll-out will be driven by local interest through B4RN’s Expression of interest forms which are linked to above. In total well over 1000 properties are likely to be included and we would hope more parishes and properties could join onto the project over time.

This is a two year project and an iterative process so things may well change.

B4RN is a not-for-profit, community benefit organisation and typically the community need to raise funding to pay for the installation of the B4RN network. Ray Wind Funds are helping initiate the project in their surrounding parishes which should help us to start the project.

B4RN is responsible for laying the fibre network, but individual households are responsible for getting the ducting from the boundary of their property to the wall of their house. We plan to have trained local B4RN-certified contractors available to assist with this and would be paid through the £150 B4RN connection fee.

Why is this necessary?

  • The copper network of telephone lines are old, unreliable and outdated. Fibre to the  Property (FTTP) is the only way forwards and much our area falls in the “final 5%” of properties that fibre to the property will not cover for decades to come without B4RN.
  • Current internet speeds for many rural properties in the area are only around 2Mbps – barely adequate for email, let alone streaming TV, video or music. In addition, old copper telephone wires used to deliver the internet are unreliable; the internet frequently cuts out, especially during bad weather and BT struggles to effectively diagnose faults, meaning that some properties can be without internet for days at a time.
  • Even where properties have reasonable internet speeds locally, 20 -70 Mbps – usually this is because they are close to a local cabinet that has been connected to superfast fibre – speeds can drop dramatically at peak times and are often inadequate when several members of a household are connected to the internet simultaneously.
  • Given the low density of properties in the area it is difficult for BT to make a good economic case for improving their current service. Even if this does happen we are unlikely to achieve speeds of above 28Mbps. This will be inadequate two or three years down the line and we will be back to square one.

How do we make it happen?

Phase One – Getting the Project Green-lighted

  • A series of local meetings are to take place, along with a leaflet drop to inform every household and business in the area of the benefits of connecting to the B4RN network
  • A minimum of 50% of properties in each parish will need to agree to an expression of interest form – THIS IS NOT A CONTRACT AND BARN WOULD ONLY CHARGE ANYTHING ONCE YOU HAVE TAKEN UP SERVICE.
  • Typically for a B4RN project we would need to raise funds to build the network. This is done mostly by individuals buying shares in B4RN. Though in our case Ray Wind Funds are hoping to help us initiate the project. Although the total cost of the network won’t be known until the route has been fully designed, which in turn is dependent upon which landowners give permission to cross their land.
  • We need to get permission from landowners in the area to lay B4RN ducting across their land in order to deliver hyperfast internet to every household that wants it

Phase Two – Planning the Route

  • Once we have met the phase one conditions, B4RN engineers will map out the most suitable route for the fibre to take.
  • Landowners will be informed and B4RN volunteers will walk the route on the ground, talking to landowners to find the best route across their land.

Phase Three – Digging

  • Contractors will begin to lay the ducting, using mole ploughs and mini diggers. Access chambers will also need to be dug.
  • B4RN will install new roadside cabinets to handle connections to it’s network: Location TBA once the network is more thoroughly designed
  • Households will need to think about the best way to connect their property to the B4RN network, come along to Property/Hamlet Dig Planning workshops, Submit dig plans for verification then begin digging from wall to boundary with fields.
  • It is hoped that digging will commence during 2020.

Phase Four – Connection:

  • B4RN volunteers will be trained to assist households to plan and make their connection to the B4RN network.
  • Once the network goes live, householders will enjoy upload and download speeds of 1000mbps

How can I help B4NTR to succeed?

  • Express your interest in connecting to the B4RN network by filling out the online form here
  • Spread the word to households who don’t know about B4RN yet and encourage them to sign up too
  • Encourage local landowners, whose land we might need to cross in order to build the network, to fill out and return a wayleave.
  • Buy shares in B4RN if you can afford to do so, as this provides capital to build our new network
  • Volunteer your services, equipment or time to the project.

Remember, even if you do not want to subscribe to B4RN’s monthly service it is worth connecting your property to the network in case a connection is needed in future. A recent survey by the London School of Economics showed that 60% of house hunters wouldn’t even consider viewing a property with a poor internet connection. Connections to the B4RN network are cheaper and easier if they are made whilst the network is being built. If you say ‘no’ now then you risk paying a much higher connection fee if you change your mind in the future!

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. An information sheet has been posted through my door but this parish (Wark) is not listed on those being considered for the project; it is a neighbour to Birtley. Does this mean I can sign up or was the delivery of the sheet a mistake?

    1. Hi Stephen,

      Wark wasn’t actually one of our initial roll out areas and Royal mails delivery process means we have to mailshot postcodes so there is some overlap in areas. That said we are keen to move into Wark and Simonburn since they are likely to be part of the route to get internet further north. I’ve been in touch with Alan James from Wark who has been leading a FTTP fibre rollout in Wark. I know he was keen to see how negotiations with BT go before considering involving B4RN. That said we’d welcome anyone in Wark or other parishes that want to get involved – do please feel free to complete a expression of interest for your nearest parish and we’ll see this when we map the data.

      1. Thanks for that. I will endeavour to complete a form: it may help.

      2. We’re in Falstone, which is obviously way beyond your current planned area. However, your reply that you were interested in going further up the valley makes me ask: what are you longer-term plans if you get the greenlight for your existing area?

        1. Dear Tom, any expansion could be worked with through B4RN and would be dictated by local interest and geography. i.e. as long as we get Otterburn are on board with us, Falstone and Tarset could be its own project with B4RN (Rochester have also shown a lot of interest too). From a B4NTR point of view at present we’re realising what a lot of (volunteer) work all this is and we’re keen to push ahead and focus on what we’ve already set out to do.

          1. Absolutely understand. I share an office with two people heavily involved in the Allendale project, so I’m aware of how much work it is. Plus we do have FTTC, so the need is nothing like as great. Thanks for the reply, and good luck!

  2. Does the £30 include line rental?

    1. Good question Kerry-Ann, Its just for internet connection but why not SAVE MONEY and move to VOIP (voice over IP). Its just a little box you plug your phone into, some VOIP companies will supply this for you. The company you choose either gives you a new number with a local area code or you can buy (AKA “port”) your current number from BT if you want to keep it.

      All the details will be on our website closer to us having the network built and ready to use. For now you could look a the helpful info already on B4RN’s website – https://b4rn.org.uk/resources/
      Or you could check out a summary of VOIP companies here on one of our B4RN sister site – https://b4mintsprint.wordpress.com/telephone-calling-via-b4rn/

      Personally I already use a VOIP company called Sipgate – they have NO upfront or monthly line rental fees! So you’d just pay for your internet connection – you shouldn’t notice a difference at all…and will have to consider it soon since BT already plan to switch over to VOIP for all their customers by 2025!

  3. Has anyone asked if Humshaugh could be included please?

    1. Hi Diana, Yes we contacted Humshaugh parish council in the very early planning stages to tell them about the project and to look for a volunteer for the area, but they felt you had reasonable internet in place and were going to monitor how things progressed. Things have progressed hugely and we have done a lot of work to get things this far and with all the parishes we’ve already got a lot of work going on and we are keen to see it through to the end, that’s not to say Humshaugh couldn’t join on at a later date though with its own project, it would just need volunteers to work with B4RN for this.

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