£2m crowdfunding investment will help boost rural broadband coverage

B4RN chief executive Barry Forde

Community benefit society Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) has raised £2m following its first close on the Triodos crowdfunding platform.

The investment has come from both retail investors and institutional investors, including the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s social investment fund.

The offer has a £50 minimum investment, with an average investment of £3,300.

The investment offer is open until July 1, with a target of £3m and the interest rate on the seven-year bonds is 4.5% per year. As with all investments, capital is at risk and interest payments are not guaranteed.

The capital raised will help to tackle the problem of slow or non-existent broadband, which is a significant issue in rural UK communities, especially where livelihoods depend on operating effectively online.

This investment will enable Lancaster-based B4RN to expand its gigabit-capable network – the fastest available in the UK – and bring its service to more underserved rural communities.

The investment will enable B4RN to quadruple its network to up to 20,000 properties by 2023.

B4RN is owned by its members and invests its profits back into the community in a variety of ways, for example by providing internet free of charge to schools in its network.

Barry Forde, B4RN chief executive, said: “We’re delighted to have raised £2m through crowdfunding with Triodos.

“Investors from all over the UK have got behind us and will help us to connect more properties, more quickly than we would have usually been able to do.

“We also see the impact this valuable service has on communities and how it brings them closer together as they are instrumental in helping to ensure the network connection happens.

“The future of B4RN is very exciting and we hope to reach our overall crowdfunding target, which will help us to significantly grow the network so more people and businesses benefit.”

Dan Hird, head of corporate finance at Triodos Bank, said: “This investment will enable B4RN to substantially increase its network, to connect more and more houses, businesses, community groups and schools to the best broadband possible in the UK in some of our most rural communities.

“We are delighted to have raised this amount of investment so far and can’t thank people enough for getting behind B4RN. Our goal now is to reach £3m which will enable B4RN to quadruple its network by 2023.”

Gillian Dickson, social investment manager at London-based Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, said: “Esmée Fairbairn Foundation first invested in B4RN through a small loan in 2014 to help scale its operations.

“We know how committed it is to delivering this valuable service in rural areas and the difference it makes to people’s lives.”

She addee: “We are delighted to be able make a further investment in this crowdfunding offer and to be a part of this opportunity for B4RN to take its operations to the next level.

“Esmée aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities and we are excited to be involved in BR4N, given the immediate benefits this project will deliver.”