Sometimes best ideas are brewed up over a pint, and Michaelston-y-Fedw Internet proves that.
A citizen coalition in the 300-person town in Wales, fed up with its crawling 4 Mbps speeds, decided to stop waiting around for fiber to come to them and established their own Community Interest Company (CIC), a UK designation that describes an organization whose primary purpose is community benefit to place it themselves. Entrepreneurial community leaders of Michaelston-y-Fedw hatched the plan in a pub last year, and began it in earnest by establishing their not-for-profit in October 2017.
By the People, For the People
According to the ISPs website, it is the first rural community-built gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service in Wales. An interactive map of fiber implementation efforts on Michaelston-y-Fedw Internet’s website shows that a long strip of fiber is already complete, with dozens of premises connected. Thousands of hours of volunteering from locals — school teachers, farmers, retirees, you name it — made the build out possible. They already have around 15 miles of trenches dug.
We’ve covered a previous effort in the UK. A community-oriented provider, Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN, pronounced “barn”), facilitated an effort to lay fiber in agricultural land, often by landowners themselves who, if they decided to volunteer for the dig effort on their property, received B4RN shares.
Besides being a well-executed plan with some top-notch volunteer efforts — including an expert knitter-come-fiber splicer nicknamed the “Splice Queen” for her nimble hand work — the dig represents some strong local self-reliance. It’s rural areas, such as Michaelston-y-Fedw, that often face the choice between either taking swift action or waiting for a provider that may never bring the infrastructure they need.
In The Guardian’s coverage of the efforts of these enterprising Welsh villagers, local Brinley Richards swelled with pride while describing the project’s success:
“It is a remarkable success story. I am so proud of the community. The village deserves recognition. Some of the people work more than 12 hours a day. I have no doubt that other parts of Wales will be asking us for advice.”
Check out this video, also produced by the Guardian, documenting Michaelston-y-Fedw’s efforts to get fiber connectivity: