B4RN A Year On

Our superfast broadband connection, supplied by B4RN, has been running for about a year and I've been reviewing the changes it has made.

The positives

Obviously, the amazing speed: 1,000 Mbps compared to the speed of 2.5 Mbps which we were getting before. This is the killer feature. Even in well served urban areas, most people don't get speeds of more than about 40 Mbps even with BT Infinity.
Ookla's speed test in progress showing more or less 1,000 Mbps upload and download speeds

The cost: we have now removed BT completely, choosing to use the B4RN connection for telephony as well as broadband. The total cost is £30 per month to B4RN and about £3 per month to the company providing the VoIP service. We were previously paying BT around £60 per month - for a vastly inferior service.

Better than men in hi-vis jackets up telegraph poles
We love the idea of B4RN's business model: a local not-for-profit company, where possible using local volunteers to run cables across farmers' fields, rather than digging up the roads.

Reliability: we have had more or less 100% reliability. There have been (I think) a couple of brief, planned breaks in service but we didn't even notice them.

Good will: there is a lot of good will towards B4RN - a classic David and Goliath story.

A bit of publicity for Dolphinholme: the village has become a battle ground between BT and B4RN, with BT now racing to install their own fibre cabling in competition with B4RN's. It's all a bit daft and there has been quite a bit of national coverage, especially in the IT press. But there's also a serious point about government grants to support rural broadband connections and a dirty tricks campaign.

The negatives

There aren't any real negatives.

B4RN installation can only go at the speed it can go at: installation could only take place once all the necessary components were in place, not least the requisite number of volunteers and level of interest from potential customers. But, equally, BT goes at its own pace too - and local people have no influence at all on that.

I've never seen inside B4RN's tech support department
but it probably doesn't look like this
Future technical support and viability: there are natural concerns about the technical and financial resources behind B4RN if there is a serious technical or business problem: small businesses are always vulnerable. But so far everything has run smoothly and today's successful small businesses are tomorrow's big businesses.

Slow speeds inside the house: not really a negative but with data pouring into the house at 1,000 Mbps and even the fastest wifi running at no more than 300 Mbps, the network inside the house becomes the bottleneck. In fact, our Wireless-N network (used mainly for tablets and laptops) runs at a maximum of 150 Mbps because we still have some older 'legacy' devices which slow the entire network down. Our Powerline network (for fixed devices) operates in the range 100-160.

Not very tidy: until everyone is connected up, there are little coils of black and orange cables lying around the village. If people are undecided, B4RN sometimes runs a cable to the house anyway and leaves it coiled up nearby. Whilst this minimises future installation work, it looks a bit unfinished.


Obviously, a no-brainer. The most amazing internet connection at a great price and likely to be 'future-proof' for several years to come.

Who remembers 56 kbps and that annoying screeching noise?