Community-driven Funding Models

A number of examples demonstrate how community-driven models can be used to help deliver NGA projects.  There are a number of different approaches that can be employed.

Community Shares – a ‘live’ example from Cybermoor

Cybermoor (www.cybermoor.org) has been a pioneer in community-led broadband action since 2001, operating a wireless broadband network.  Cybermoor is working on a NGA project as part of one of the BDUK pilots.

Cybermoor’s plan is to upgrade its network to use more fibre and has received an offer of funding from the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) under the RDPE (Rural Development Projects for England) scheme.

This grant is part funding of a £600,000 project: with remaining funding to be provided by Cybermoor, and industry partners. Monies will be drawn from Cybermoor’s own resources and through the issue of Community Shares.  A fund-raising document is currently being prepared and once available, we will post a link to it here.

You can find out more about Community Shares at (www.communityshares.org.uk) where there are many resources and links to guidance on community shares and bond issues, legal issues, forms of corporate structure and governance.

An Open Network Community Solution

Based on international best demonstrated practice for business and operating models for open networks, some time ago CBN (www.broadband.coop) devised an outline solution for community networks, based on the open network concept.  The elements considered in this model are:

  • Mutually owned, open network and network operator: a non-profit-seeking body owns and operates the network on behalf of service providers and the business and residential community, primarily offering access to the active network (“lit” fibre) to service providers, but with an option for other operators to buy access to the passive network. 
  • Multiple competing service providers: different providers offer a range of services to end users primarily in services and content including Internet access, telephone services and other content.
  • Community service provider: one of the competing service providers is a community-owned enterprise effectively guaranteeing the availability of core end-user services to local businesses and residents.

The following assumptions are made:

  • That there are may be public funds available for capital investment, particularly in ‘hard-to-reach’ areas
  • That there should be a mechanism to enable and encourage private investment (possibly through the Enterprise Investment Scheme)
  • That the principle of an open network should be maintained to maximise choice and to avoid any issues of state aid
  • That active user engagement in the management of services is desired as a way to encourage take up and as an aid to sustainability
  • That certain technical elements of the operation and maintenance of the network are of little concern to individuals and the community, provided they are performed competently, and so are more appropriately managed at arm’s length by major stakeholders, and outsourced if necessary.

The following entities could be involved:

  • The public sector in some form, perhaps a special purpose vehicle, or more directly
  • One or more external investors
  • A multi-stakeholder cooperative consortium created to own the network
  • A consumer cooperative (or possibly multi-stakeholder) created to provide services on the network
  • A number of companies providing technical services under contract
  • A number of private service providers using the network to provide services to customers