Community broadband gets royal approval

Could broadband's killer application be the ability to let a duke surf wirelessly from a pub?

The UK's army of wireless broadband activists got a royal thumbs-up on Monday, when the Duke of Kent visited the Buckfastleigh Broadband Community Network in Devon.

Buckfastleigh is the site of one of Britain's community broadband networks. Last year the government provided funding for the creation of a "mixed technology broadband network" in the town, which is intended to be a test bed to uncover the best ways to deploy broadband in rural areas. Wireless is a key part of the Buckfastleigh network.

The duke visited one of the public access points in the centre of the town, before moving five miles into deepest Dartmoor to a village where the local pub is connected by a 3.4GHz non-line-of-sight link to the main network. There, he used a laptop to surf the Web using the pub's 2.4GHz Wi-Fi hot spot before tucking into lunch.

"I'd like to think the duke was pleasantly surprised by what he saw at Buckfastleigh," Gordon Adgey, co-founder of Buckfastleigh Broadband, told ZDNet UK. ""Our project is all about demonstrating the art of the possible, although there's still a long way to go," Adgey added.

Buckfastleigh already has six public access wireless networks operating, three of which are based at pubs. There are also around 25 users connected to the network, mostly small businesses.

Adgey explained that a key objective of Buckfastleigh Broadband is to prove that wireless infrastructure can be deployed quickly once demand has been identified. There's no shortage of that in Buckfastleigh, according to Adgey, who says that he knows of at least 100 more potential users interested in joining the high-speed revolution.