Distributism & the Internet: The Case of B4RN

The BBC has this week provided one of those rare stories of encouragement in which a small isolated rural town in Lancashire, fed up with the failure of major IT companies to upgrade their existing dial-up networks to broadband, took the issue up on their own and began to do it themselves.

As the report shows, the cooperative effort by the townsfolk to upgrade their own telecommunications required the volunteering of their respective expertise, from trench digging, to network design and IT support, as well as negotiating trench access to landholders. The gifting of their diverse attributes has thus led to a network, named B4RN, to be connected to high speed broadband at a tenth of the cost of conventional telecommunications firms. 

The success of the network would very much depend on the next stage of their development, where the distribution of share ownership to finance further expansion of the network to other towns becomes key. But with the practice of having the townsfolk hold shares in their own IT company, this story is an excellent example of distributism going beyond the stereotypical cases of food production and in other high-tech industrial activities, with the encouraging news that such complex enterprises are indeed possible.

UPDATE: Joe Kloc of The Daily Dot has also this week filed a report on community-run, off-the-grid internet "meshes" being implemented in Athens and nearby islands, which have bypassed slow, expensive or even non-existent corporate internet coverage.

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