Rural broadband specialist Airband announced this week it has made home broadband plans unlimited for customers in the small village of Kempley in Gloucestershire. The move is a pilot for possible similar upgrades to several of its smaller wireless networks that are not yet on unlimited plans.
The small community of Kempley struggled with average download speeds of 0.5-2 Mbps until the independent internet service provider stepped in five years ago and worked with the community to gain funding to create a high-speed wireless broadband network in the area.
“All our customers in Kempley have been upgraded to 40Mbps unlimited packages free of charge for three months, in response to the coronavirus crisis” explained Philippa Blackburn, Airband’s special projects manager. “The majority of our customers already have unlimited packages but a few of our historical wireless networks such as Kempley are on 20Mbps packages and we are currently working with our network engineering team to see if it is possible to upgrade any community where our customers express a need.”
Kempley resident, Martin Brocklehurst, led the original successful community bid to gain funding for a superfast broadband network in the village five years ago and has recently been working closely with Airband to help co-ordinate the upgrade.
“It’s a great reaction from Airband – a bit of good news at a time of national crisis. In an isolated community reliable fast broadband is critical and the faster speeds are hugely appreciated by everyone I’ve spoken to,” said Martin.
“This is a tiny village with no shop and no pub and only one bus a week – so internet is a lifeline – it enables people to live here and, in times of emergency, it helps us to communicate,” he said.
Martin is an environmental consultant working with the Citizen’s Science Global Partnership – a global association that works with the UN on sustainable development goals.
“This morning, I’ve been involved in a global meeting that would not have been possible without good broadband – the person leading the meeting was in rural Devon and their signal kept dropping off, but I was able to have a robust signal and communicate with people in Crete, Sydney and America. And the improved speeds will enable us to host our AGM online,” explained Martin.
Airband’s superfast wireless network in Kempley has meant that people like software engineer, Jon Osborne, were able to move to the village.
“I’m a software engineer for a firm in Bristol and I permanently work from home, so I rely heavily on our internet connection,” said Jon.
“Prior to Airband it wouldn’t have been an option for me to live in Kempley Green as the BT connection to the village simply wasn’t fast enough nor stable enough. Airband offering the original 20Mpbs changed this and made working from home possible.
“And as well as facilitating my homeworking, it has transformed everyday life – we have CCTV security that lets us monitor our property even when we’re away; we have all the benefits of cloud storage; Amazon Alexa is used for everything from entertainment to controlling appliances, and we have a heavy use of internet for entertainment including Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube and soon Disney+ for both myself and my wife and our children. And we’ve also been able to play online multiplayer games with friends,” said Jon.
“Airband’s connection has also meant that we’ve been able to replace our BT landline with a VOIP number which allows us to answer home phones at home and while we are away,” he said.
“The increase in speed and removal of our download limit will mean a significant amount to us as a family, especially considering it is likely that we will all be at home more often for an unforeseeable length of time. The speed increase will remove any impact to me working from home when others are also attempting to access the internet or taking telephone calls. The removal of the download limit will reduce stress for me as I attempt to ensure we don’t go over our data cap.
“All in all, this is an extremely generous offer from Airband and has in no doubt in my mind helped us out as a family incredibly and I am sure the feeling is shared by other users within our village,” said Jon.
Airband continues to work on the Kempley Combined Solution – a fibre network for an area of the community not currently served with superfast broadband by any provider. The planned network will be built in conjunction with Fastershire – an ongoing partnership between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire councils, aiming to improve broadband speed and connectivity in rural areas.