Nuenen develops fibre to the home model

Nuenen, near Eindhoven, is a market town where the community built their own open access network, called OnsNet (or “out network”) some six years ago. The scheme was created in a partnership between the community, the town's housing association and a civil engineering company with some support from the Dutch government.

The project demonstrates that a community can develop a very successful and sustainable telecommunications system and lay bare a few myths along the way:

·       With 8,000 connections the network would previously have been deemed “subscale” by the traditional operators but the project makes a significant return to the community from profits

·       There is a general perception that take-up levels reach a plateau at around 70% while this community sustains in excess of 85%

·       What is equally impressive is the speed with which it was deployed. The contract was signed in June 2004 and the build was complete before Christmas – the actual build was just three months.

A challenge for visitors to the town is to find any evidence that the entire town had been dug up – there is no disturbance or damage to the town; no subsidence; in fact, no scars whatsoever. The reason for this is attributed to their approach.

The organisation is very much community-led. The founder, Kees Rovers, developed what he calls the Seven Pillars of a successful community broadband project.

Each is equally important but typically only three or possibly four can be fully realised by a traditional model. While it is clearly possible, for example, to develop a viable business model or a quality network, it is virtually impossible to deploy an appropriate set of local services – yet it is these local services, reflecting the local needs and character, which sustain the high levels of take up. Equally, community communication replaces a more general market message, and the involvement of the community develops what Kees calls an “us feeling” – a sense that the community has a stake in the network’s success.

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