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Somerset



Somerset part of UK’s biggest rural wireless network

The UK’s largest rural wireless internet network is connecting rural businesses across Somerset.

South West Internet is not only bringing low-cost broadband to isolated businesses across the county, but it is providing free access for community groups.

Rupert Cox, from Somerset 3D, says, “Through the rural wireless internet, Somerset businesses can obtain faster broadband speeds than some in London. Pioneering initiatives like this have enabled Somerset to be the best in the west and among the UK’s top areas for broadband connection rates.”

South West Internet targets clusters of hard-to-reach businesses in Somerset, Dorset and Devon that require improved broadband connections. The ariels are discreet and can hardly be seen, as the image above sees.

Managing director Tim Snape says, “If a business relocates or sets up in the area – say, on a farm in a rural area – and suddenly realises there is no broadband coverage, it cannot trade. If we can provide a viable service and help create or sustain half a dozen jobs, then that is very valuable, especially in the recession.”

South West Internet negotiates with farmers and landowners to erect antennae, which can be fixed on the side of barns and helps obtain planning permission.

Prices for small businesses are typically £30 a month, which is designed to compete with BT and cable fees. Large companies pay a wholesale rate measured by user and megabyte per second. The network is secure and password-protected.

When businesses are connected, nearby community groups have the opportunity to use the service without charge. 

The connection speed in Somerset is at least 2megabytes – for both downloading and uploading, but often reaches 8megabytes. “It is generally a lot faster than you would get in London. There, you might typically get two-meg download, but the upload is very slow. That is not good for businesses that need to transfer files out.”

South West Internet is a Community Interest Company, which was established with backing from Somerset County Council, West Somerset District Council and others. A CIC is similar to a Public Limited Company, but the assets belong to the community and South West Internet’s profits are invested back into growing the network.

It has won several awards for being the UK’s Best Wireless Internet Service Provider, Best Broadband Supplier and Best Small Internet Service Provider. Mr Snape has 17 years of experience in the internet industry.