Solving UK connectivity problems turn into a community effort
Cooperatives, civic organisations, and small groups of concerned citizens are taking it upon themselves to help strengthen internet connectivity in the United Kingdom, and bring it to places where it is sparse, weak, or practically non-existent. A shocking report by City A.M. reveals that no less than the capital itself, London, is affected.
Some areas in the city still have a slow 6mbps internet speed, with outdated infrastructure making things worse. The first to suffer are the small businesses which have seen a slowdown in sales, caused by small but lethal quirks like breakdowns in credit card transactions once the customer starts paying. The resulting outcry has compelled the mayor and the other future contenders to his office to make improving broadband connectivity a priority in their platform.
To those shocked how a modern city like London can be crippled by a state of affairs that would be unimaginable in an industrialized world, City A.M. columnist Will Harnden explains, “Whilst it’s true that we now have 90 percent access to superfast broadband in London, it’s the last 10 percent of unavailability that’s vital as it’s in areas of the city where we need it most. We work with numerous businesses across the city, all of which have previously experienced connectivity issues that were hindering business operations.”
A major upgrade like replacing antiquated copper wire cables with state-of-the-art fibre optics would require sizeable investments that can make any aspiring public official baulk, due to fear of angry complaints from the electorate. However, some cooperatives have gone ahead of them and made it clear that they would not hesitate in paying more fees if it meant improved connectivity. According to Co-operative News, rural-based “community benefit societies like Cybermoor, Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN), and Fibre for Rural Nottinghamshire (F4RN)” are offering their members high-speed internet access for a set fee of L500, coupled with an increase of 10 percent for their monthly home use.
Malcolm Corbett, CEO of Independent Network Co-operative Associations (INCA), says, “The community and co-ops can play a significant role in areas where the community is prepared to invest. It’s patient capital. INCA members build new fibre and wireless networks, often in the most challenging areas of the UK.”
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Scotland, it’s the city’s 33 libraries which are providing free, high-speed, and unlimited internet access to the members of more than 86,000 homes who are still cut off from having quality broadband internet. Evening Times reports that these libraries are now fully wired and their libraries are actively encouraging Glasgow residents to brush themselves on their internet skills. Classes teach internet basics like surfing, uploading photos, and downloading material to the uninitiated, and introduce the unemployed and the underemployed on how to find jobs online.
Pamela Tulloch, Chief Executive Officer for the Scottish Libraries and Information Council, says: “Libraries are at the heart of promoting digital inclusion within communities in Scotland and encouraging digital participation… Access to Wi-Fi will enable people not only to use their own devices in their local libraries but also access the fabulous digital offer which libraries provide such as e-books, e-audio books , e-magazines and access to information.”
While Telecom Tech News reports more ambitious plans from operators like EE’s strategy to cover 95 percent of Great Britain with 4G in four years’ time, these small steady steps made by the local communities do keep the momentum going, and bring internet inclusion to those who otherwise would have been shut out.
Disruptive but user-friendly technologies can also boost connectivity. City A.M. says that plug-and-play broadband is one solution that London businessmen use to augment their internet strength. One increasingly popular device is 5BARz International’s network extender, which can amplify the weak cell signals of smartphones and tablets within a radius of 4,000-square metre radius. The portable device, as small as a man’s hand, has been proven to be effective in remote areas, dead wi-fi spots, and densely populated buildings, which are not that receptive to cell signals.
When there’s a will, there’s a way. As politicians mull over the alternatives to welcome their internet-challenged constituents to the digital landscape, these more pro-active Brits are already finding their own way.