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Last Friday, the lifeboat crew at Spurn Point, on the tip of the Humber estuary's north bank, got started on installing their own next-generation broadband cable.
The seven-strong Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) crew and their families — Spurn Point is a full-time station — had been stuck on dial-up-quality radio connectivity, getting download speeds of just 44-150Kbps, superintendent coxswain Dave Steenvoorden told ZDNet UK on Tuesday, adding that the station was not even within range of 3G services.
"Without getting too political, we didn't get any help from BT," Steenvoorden said. "They were sending us all the advertising through the post for fast broadband, and each time we approached them they said we were not compatible, and they could only offer a maximum of 250Kbps. We're an absolute notspot."
Help came from Fibrestream, the company that supplies the RNLI station with its radio-based broadband. The firm, which has handled several community broadband projects, got together with its suppliers and provided the necessary materials for free, while the crew members and other locals provided the labour for digging the trenches.
"We're pretty resourceful people," Steenvoorden said. "The technical people were there on the day — they said we needed a feed to each house, and we just set to and did it."
Spurn Point is a nature reserve, Steenvoorden explained, so all the new cabling had to be run underneath existing pathways with minimum disturbance.
"We did it last Friday — we started at 9am and we had all the cabling in by 8.30 at night," he said. "It was a total distance of approximately 300m, linking our seven houses and the crew training facility together. In the next week or two, we've got to run up through some ducting up to a control tower that's 400m away."
The fibre-based connectivity should go live within the next month — the fibre itself needs to be blown through the cables in the next couple of weeks, after which the switching equipment will be installed.
Spurn Point is getting fibre-optic connections to a radio station, with a microwave link to the mainland, Steenvoorden said.