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About Broadband and

What does Broadband mean?

Broadband means FAST and ALWAYS ON. You probably have a modem now, and when you want your email or the World Wide Web you dial up your ISP to connect to the rest of the world. It only takes a minute, and you are used to waiting a minute or two for stuff to download to you.

Broadband access is at least ten and often forty times faster than your modem, and does not have to dial up when you want a connection - it is already there at the click of your mouse. So lots more information is much easier to get.


Why it is important?

You will find yourself getting more information, whether it is just finding out what's on at the cinema (quicker than finding the right page in the newspaper) or finding the train times from Los Angeles to Vancouver. Web sites with big colour images will appear MUCH faster than you are used to. Once you have tried broadband you will never be satisfied with anything less.

Welcome to the 21st Century! This is the Information Age, when a host of activities become possible that never were before. You are probably used to being able to check out a villa on a holiday travel site, but soon you will be able to see a panorama of the view from its terrace, and hear local music too.

You will be able to see what the traffic is like at a well-known jam and decide, before you leave home, what route you will take.

You will swap correspondence with a business colleague in the South Pacific, with attached drawings and calculations, within minutes of creating them.

You will send the latest snapshots of the children to Godmother in South Africa at the click of a mouse.

Why Community Broadband?

Rugby is encircled by villages too small for cable companies to pay attention to, with telephone exchanges that BT will not upgrade to modern standards. Their technology is too expensive for little places like ours so we have to organise our broadband access ourselves.

How it will work?

New inexpensive technology is available off the shelf for this right now. This uses wireless communication of the kind called WiFi, (also known as 802.11), which works at high frequencies (2.4GHz) and low power over short distances. This frequency does not need a licence, as most other frequencies do. It is now being used to allow workers to move around a warehouse or an office in a wire-less way and still keep in touch with the local computer network.

To start off with we will use the existing "Always On" infrastructure already in place serving OEM Computer Systems (the sponsor and organiser of this project) which comprises a satellite downlink providing up to 16Mbps bandwidth with bundled ISDN permanent connection for the back channel.

We then use this WiFi system to enable users to share it from anywhere in the local villages. WiFi access points will be positioned at strategic points, about every couple of hundred metres, on selected users' TV aerial poles or roof tops. Other users will reach the network by connecting to these local Access Points.

As soon as we have enough people using the network to justify increasing the Main link bandwidth to the internet (estimated to be about 35 subscriptions) , we will bring in high bandwidth leased lines into the equation to supplement and expand the service.

Update: As of 23rd January 2004, the first leased line has been installed and activated!

You will need a wireless card connected to your computer, and possibly a small antenna positioned at the window, or in some cases on your roof. Which you need depends mainly on how far away you are from the nearest access point, and how many trees there are around you. Prices start from about £70. Equipment needed for the Access Points will be provided to selected users and recovered if they leave the network.

Indeed, initially, it is critical to the success of the project that we have people volunteering to be network nodes. These are special installations that help spread the wireless network. Please see our nodes page.

Currently services begin at just £19.99 per month. See the services section for more detailed pricing.

We can use the equipment to link neighbour to neighbour to office to school to other neighbour in a community network. Then we can all share the expensive part of the system, which is the fast link back to the rest of the internet by a line leased from BT. We can also get new forms of social activity from our own Community Network. Some of these are described below in the What else can we do with a network? section.

There may be places which are hard to reach with wireless equipment, where special telephone lines from BT will be used. These lines can also be used to connect businesses who need a dedicated amount of bandwidth independent of the rest of the community.

How it will be organised?

Firstly this has to be a "community" Project.

The Government thinks broadband access is very important, but don't wait for the civil servants to organise it for you; that will take many years!

For individuals, the cost of a truly broadband leased line would be prohibitive (approx £16,000 per annum!!) unless the number of people sharing was large. 

And that's exactly what we are trying to accomplish!  We need lots of people sharing a "Fat Pipe" to the internet. We will use wireless to interconnect the villages and individual subscribers.  The beauty of using wireless is that its bandwidth specification of 11mbps (real world 6mbps) is many times faster than existing standard broadband connections.  We should always have "the edge" in terms of distributing more bandwidth over the wireless network than individual connections to residents from ADSL suppliers on a price performance basis.

In other words, this is not just a short term solution but a scalable long term infrastructure which should outperform other solutions on a speed and cost basis.

This network will be YOUR network, the equipment for the most part will be owned by YOU in your own homes and businesses. and OEM Computer Systems are the organisers and sponsors who will manage the network on a technical basis although we expect as time goes by to relinquish some administration to local enthusiasts.  

Initially, specific equipment at premises designated and who agree to be nodes will be owned by OEM Computer Systems. This is to keep the price down. How could we start charging nodes more for the extra equipment needed when they are helping to expand the network infrastructure? It just would not make sense. The node equipment has to be subsidised by OEM which will claw back the expenditure through the subscription to Internet services.

Generally and OEM Computer Systems will provide the technical know-how, customer support, the equipment, and the day-to-day management and billing and so on. However, we cannot stress enough that we want and need people to be involved. Without the use of peoples houses as nodes we cannot expand the network.

What else shall we do with a Network?

We believe that the existence of the Community Network will inspire people to devise uses for it that no-one in the world has thought of yet. But there are plenty of uses we can already imagine, some of which are listed here. Do let us know if you envision others!

Applications not involving video cameras

  • Automatic Remote hard disc backup, so your computer data is more secure
  • Playing computer games - single user and multi-user
  • Provision of colour printing services, commercially or by a volunteer
  • Automatic frequent updating of anti-virus software

Buying Syndicates

  • Groups who get a better deal than individuals
  • Administration of Local Exchange Trading Scheme (LETS - bartering)

Getting the Community together

  • Linking members of all the Clubs, or Societies, in the village
  • Providing a Notice Board for any Events, Sales and Wants
  • Booking at events of Clubs and Societies
  • Providing web site space
  • Ordering from local shops, making Appointments or changing newspaper deliveries
  • Co-ordinating delivery of Indian Takeaway, Oil etc
  • A computer in a public place for people who lack their own to use
  • Sign-up sheets for volunteers, showing at once when help is wanted
  • Public transport timetables, (and current information about delays when that becomes available
  • Maintaining an on-line, local skills pool of potential subcontractors to support businesses with data entry, bookkeeping, web site design & maintenance and so on
  • Organising Shopping Clubs - coordinating transport, and perhaps buying, for people who do not have cars.
  • Local History - location independent pages on a web site to collect memoirs, anecdotes and recollections.

What about video ?

  • Local traffic information (e.g. Quy roundabout) so you can plan
  • Crowds in the Swimming Pool
  • Lectures, sporting events, performances within the village
  • Web-cast of Parish Council meetings
  • Seasonal attractions at Anglesey Abbey or Wimpole Hall
  • Your house, while you are away, so a neighbour can keep an eye on it
  • Village road traffic
  • People needing watching - children, immobile or old people

What should I do next?

You can sign up for service!