We’re helping rural communities to connect

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Eight local firms have made the shortlist in a contest offering free advertising in The Visitor plus mentoring. They are among more than 1,100 firms who entered the newspaper industry’s acclaimed Local Business Accelerators (LBA) campaign.

A community benefit company which is bringing high speed broadband to the countryside is in contention to win the newspaper industry’s acclaimed Local Business Accelerators (LBA) competition.

B4RN could bring fibre optic broadband to 2,500 remote farms and homes. Around 1,000 have signed up so far for the one gigabit (1,000 megabytes per second) connection.

Farmers and rural residents have been helping to lay the cables to properties in return for shares in the company.

Otherwise, shares are being made available under the EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) which offers 30 per cent tax relief, with a minimum investment of £100 and maximum of £20,000. So far, £500,000 has been raised through share issues.

Or for a donation of £5 people can sponsor a metre of fibre duct which will be inscribed with their name.

Connections have already gone live in Quernmore, with Arkholme, Abbeystead and Newton set to follow over the next few weeks.

Other areas set to benefit include Melling, Arkholme, Wray, Tatham, Roeburndale, Wennington and Caton-with-Littledale, Kirkby Lonsdale, Gressingham and Leck.

B4RN say that while the Government and large telecom companies have plans for superfast broadband, they do not cover many rural areas because costs are so high and subscriber numbers are low, meaning there is limited internet and mobile coverage.

B4RN chief executive, Quernmore resident Prof Barry Forde, said: “Winning this competition would enable us to advertise the service in parishes we have not focused on before towards the county border.

“It would be difficult for us to afford this advertising as we operate on a shoestring.

“And if we were to go on to win the mentoring that would be enormously useful.

“We are okay on the technical side of things but to have input from someone like Deborah Meaden who has expertise in running a business would be