B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) a pioneering community benefit society, which provides one gigabit capable1 broadband to rural communities, is aiming to raise £3 million through investment crowdfunding with Triodos Bank.
According to Ofcom2 1.1 million (4%) of premises in the UK cannot get ‘decent’3 broadband and almost two-thirds of premises in rural areas are without superfast broadband coverage.
B4RN already delivers the fastest fibre optic broadband connection in the UK to over 5,000 rural homes, businesses and schools in the North West and more recently in East Anglia. B4RN is now looking to raise £3 million to fund the continued roll-out of its full fibre network in more rural communities – the aim being to quadruple its network in the next five years.
As a community benefit society, its profits are reinvested back into the community in a variety of ways, for example by providing internet service to schools in its network free of charge. The organisation has been established for eight years and is owned by its 2,500 members. Its community-based approach is the key to its success. It can install cables at a significantly reduced cost by working directly with local residents and rural landowners, gaining access across their land rather than digging up roads.
B4RN customers are now among the 5% of properties in the UK that have access to full fibre (one gigabit capable) broadband. The organisation is benefitting from the government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which contributes to the installation costs of gigabit-capable broadband connections.
The bond will pay 4.5% gross interest per year for its seven-year term and the minimum investment is £50. As with all investments, capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed.
Barry Forde, chief executive of B4RN, said: “The issue of a lack of decent broadbandin rural Britain is an everyday problem for its residents and businesses, and yet it needn’t be. We have overcome challenges the large providers were just simply unprepared to take on and by working as a community we have managed to bring the UK’s fastest broadband to some of the UK’s most rural areas.
“By crowdfunding through Triodos we can connect more and more rural properties, which makes a huge difference to everyone living and working in those communities, and local schools benefit from free broadband. I am proud of what we have achieved so far, but through this bond offer I am very excited about our future and the impact we can have for rural UK communities.”
Dan Hird, head of Corporate Finance at Triodos Bank, said: “We are delighted to be working with B4RN to help them raise the capital they need to expand their vital service. B4RN is an innovative social enterprise demonstrating that a community approach can deliver a state-of-the-art broadband network in rural networks. It is sure to be of interest to investors that would like to support pioneering organisations delivering positive change.”
B4RN published an offer document dated February 2019. Applications can only be made on the basis of, and subject to, the terms and conditions of the information contained in the offer document which includes the terms and conditions of the Triodos Crowdfunding website www.triodoscrowdfunding.co.uk.
An investment in B4RN is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. The organisation’s ability to pay the interest and repay the bonds is not guaranteed and is dependent on the continued success of its business model. These bonds are unquoted securities with a fixed repayment date and although the bonds are transferable, investors should be aware that they may not be able to access their capital during the life of the bond.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1The UK now has more than 95% coverage for superfast broadband with speeds of 24 megabits per second or higher. However, most superfast connections still depend on copper telephone wires, which are limited in the speeds they can support. For the fastest and most reliable broadband, capable of delivering gigabit speeds, a full fibre connection is required. More information can be found here.
2Ofcom analysis May-June 2017
3‘Decent’ broadband is classed by Ofcom as having a connection capable of delivering a download speed of at least 10Mbit/s and an upload speed of at least 1Mbit/s
Photos and case studies are available on request
B4RN full bond offer document is available to view here
For further information please contact:
Ellie James, PR & Communications Officer, Triodos Bank UK T: 0117 311 0241
Ed Grattan, PR & Communications Manager, Triodos Bank UK T: 0117 311 0229
Broadband for the Rural North Ltd or ‘B4RN’ was launched in December 2011 by a local volunteer group led by industry expert Barry Forde. Registered as a community benefit society with the FSA (under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965) it can never be bought by a commercial operator and its profits can only be distributed to the community.
The company’s initial share offering raised hundreds of thousands of pounds from the local community and the first ground was broken in Quernmore in March 2012. Within months B4RN’s affordable, community focused model won it the ISPA’s ‘Internet Hero’ award. By 2015 we had 1000 properties connected and received royal recognition with a visit from HRH The Prince of Wales. B4RN is regularly used as a leading exemplar, by national TV and press, of what is possible both in terms of gigabit fibre and an empowered rural community.
About Triodos Bank
Triodos Bank is a global pioneer in sustainable banking using the power of finance to invest in projects that are good for people and the planet. Triodos uses its €15.1 billion in assets to create social, environmental and cultural value in a transparent and sustainable way.
With UK operations based in Bristol, Triodos Bank has branches in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany and an agency in France. Globally, Triodos Bank has microfinance projects in Central Asia and Eastern Europe and is a founding member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), a worldwide network of 54 banks seeking to transform finance into a vehicle of positive influence.
This financial promotion has been issued and approved by the UK division of Triodos Bank NV (incorporated under the laws of the Netherlands with limited liability, registered in England and Wales BR3012). Authorised by the Dutch Central Bank and subject to limited regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority. Details about the extent of our regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority are available from us on request.
Investments offered on the crowdfunding platform are not readily realisable, which means that they may be difficult to sell and you may not get back the full amount invested. Investments are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) and your capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed. Repayment of capital and interest or payment of dividends will be dependent on the success of the organisation's business model and past performance isn’t a reliable indicator of future performance. You should always read the offer document in full before deciding whether or not to invest as it will cover risks specific to an individual investment. You can read more about the general risks associated with making these types of investments here. If you are unsure if any of these investments are right for you, you should contact an Independent Financial Adviser.