As both regular readers of this blog will know, the subject of rural broadband has been something of a favourite in these parts.
Partly because I think we *might* have a way of replicating the Starbucks-Yahoo tie in the US, with the coffee chain intending to offer free wifi in 4,000 of its outlets via a deal with Yahoo…
… in that Yahoo will deliver channels of content into the Starbucks log-in page, supported by Yahoo’s Local ads.
Funnily enough we can do that, too.
It is, for me, what the future of ‘Local TV’ in this country might look like, if its not the 60-strong ‘vision’ that hangs onto the nearest transmitter mast.
And, partly, it is due to the fact that my soon to be 11-year-old boy lives in the shadow of Loddon Church tower here in Norfolk and I have long vowed that he will be ‘a child of the light’; he won’t spend his formative, teenage years in one of ‘the dark corners of the land’ waiting in vain for BT to arrive.
But back to ‘the plan’ – replicating the Starbucks/Yahoo model; only for a rural UK community.
Now, to make said plan work, we need to find ourselves a nice, high platform somewhere in the middle of a rural village; one that can then pump out a cloud of connectivity – which can then be boosted into individual homes by a little unit stuck in the wall.
If the homeowner fancies it.
You’ll pardon my lack of tech here. But I *have* walked this very walk; down a medieval village High St with a man with the ‘kit’ that can do this. It’s why I count some engineers amongst my nearest and dearest these days.
I’ve also sat in the George Hotel, Colchester, with other men looking at how they deliver the web in sub-Saharan Africa.
And here’s a clue… it’s not by fibre to every home.
And they also tend to listen rather more than some do to Google’s ex-ceo Eric Schmidt when he says the future is mobile…
So, I read this piece with true fascination…
*Right*, the word mast is – a bit like the word ‘TV’ – something of a problem here. Cos the kit these boys use, isn’t a ‘mast’ of popular imagination at all. It is a box; a kind of square air conditioning unit that can sit behind a medieval battlement.
From the ground no-one can see it; and yet it ‘lights up’ an area, say, 2km round. Enough to cover the heart of most small, UK villages.
Right, so given this is Herefordshire; let’s pick a church. Any old church…
Oooh, I don’t know… St Mary’s, Ross-on-Wye. That’s it there.
With the village houses, pubs, shops, etc… all huddled beneath it as they have been for the last 800 years.
OK, how do we return that church to its traditional medieval role of being the ‘hub’ of that community?
We put a bleedin’, two-foot square box behind one of its battlements and it pumps out 21st wifi/wireless connectivity like there’s no tomorrow.
We don’t all sit on our a*se waiting for BT to arrive… even the ‘Race To Infinity’winners won’t see a fella tinkering with their cabinets till the start of 2012… we work with the good ol CofE to restore the church’s position as the focal point of that community, and we ‘hang’ a content portal play of Starbucks/Yahoo’s best imagination beneath that ‘cloud’.
Now we can deliver video to anyone with a moby sat beneath it; we can broadcast the school nativity play off it; we can offer text message alerts and offers of it to boost local businesses; we can deliver tele-medicine; greener energy services… etc etc etc.
In short, we can deliver Ross-On-Wye ‘TV’ off the top of St Mary’s Church; in part, supported by a simple, local, self-serve ad system; in part, by local subscriptions from those householders and businesses that want a booster into their living room.
How do I know all this? Cos the Diocese of Hereford & Worcester are not the only diocese in this country who have started to look to the heavens for inspiration – only to find the highest roof space at the centre of any medieval village winking back at them.
And the other attraction for the CofE… Well, it starts with a ‘Kerr…’ and ends with a ‘…Ching’
‘Anni Holden, spokeswoman for the diocese, said the scheme would benefit churches which will receive a fee of £500 a year plus a further amount based on the number of users in an area…’
Fascinating; particularly if the Church was in on a cut of the local ad revenue… and had dozens of parish magazine advertisers at its beck and call…