Rural communities in the UK are being offered a satellite-based broadband service for £5,000 a year per village or community by the UK subsidiary of Aramiska.
BT requires that a particular demand level be reached before installing broadband ADSL in rural areas. Communities must collect names of those interested in the service and then petition the company.
Aramiska usually only offers its satellite broadband service to business customers, but has recognised that many UK rural communities are unlikely to get ADSL broadband access. It has, therefore, set up a package allowing a community to establish a non-profit business and share the connection locally.
For £5,000 a year, Aramiska will install a 75cm satellite disc, a modem and a router as part of its ARC 2000+ package. The community can then share that connection, usually using a wireless 802.11b connection and repeaters where necessary.
Subsidies are available from many UK regional development agencies, so communities can apply to have up to half of the fee refunded.
The service offers contention ratios of 4:1 downstream and 2:1 upstream, so that even on shared bandwidth users will get good performance. The contention ratio indicates the number of users who share bandwidth and a typical ADSL connection might have a contention ratio of 50:1,meaning up to 50 people might be sharing bandwidth at any time.
There is no cap on use or the number of PCs connected in the rural package, "although we usually see around 10 to 20 connections on average", said marketing communications manager Peter Gumm.
The villages of West Haddon and Winwick in Northamptonshire have set up an Aramiska broadband service, which went live last week.
Trevor Sherman, one of the 11 founders of West Haddon and Winwick Community Broadband, which was set up to run the service, said he spent more than a year trying to organise broadband through BT as he needed it for his business as a training consultant.
However, he could not find any way to get a BT broadband service to the area, despite e-mailing BT chief executive officer Ben Verwaayen.
"I got a reply within a couple of minutes. He's very responsive to customers! But even that didn't get us anywhere," Sherman said.
People in the area are now starting to sign up for the service, which costs £27 a month plus a £100 set-up fee. "I don't know exact numbers, but I know we've had about 20 enquiries since the launch and that some people have signed up. It's going at a decent rate," said Sherman.
"I spent a lot of time messing about before I came to the conclusion that we were not getting broadband by copper or cable, that satellite was the answer," Sherman said.
Gillian Law writes for IDG News Service