New York state and the federal government have set ambitious goals for the speed and distribution of broadband Internet service.
The election campaign last fall brought forth pronouncements from most state and federal candidates that broadband access, especially in rural areas, must be expanded.
But the broadband coverage map for Otsego, Delaware and surrounding counties, with a few exceptions, looks pretty much as it did 10 years ago — with cities fully wired, albeit with “high” speeds considerably lower than many other areas in the United States, and little or no access outside the larger towns.
Some observers would argue — with considerable justification — that the United States, which invented the Internet, is falling behind other nations in providing access to it.
Nevertheless, it probably comes as no surprise that a similar situation exists in Great Britain — with glossy government goals that are only marginally attainable and, even then, only in cities. Rural areas are nearly always bypassed.
In the northern English farming area of Lancashire, some farmers looked at maps that showed the expected paths for expansion of high-speed networks. They concluded that if they waited for a telecommunications company to wire their area they would be waiting forever. So they decided to do something about it: build their own fiber-optic network, one that would be right at home in Silicon Valley.
The B4RN network, based in the village of Arkholme, which has fewer than 500 people, has download speeds approaching 500 megabits per second. To put that in perspective, Time Warner’s advertised download speed for its “ultimate” — and its most expensive — residential Internet connection is 50 megabits per second, making the B4RN system 10 times faster.
“There is no hope for many of us in this area to get ‘superfast’ broadband, so we are doing it ourselves,” the upstart access provider boldly proclaims on its website. “This is not a big company from ‘outside’ doing it. It is us, the rural people of Lancashire.”