Three gives villages free mobile broadband

The operator is to provide a year's free 3G-based broadband for 11 villages, in a scheme conducted in consultation with the Countryside Alliance and the Race Online 2012 campaign

Mobile operator Three plans to donate mobile broadband equipment, along with some connectivity, to rural areas that are classified as broadband 'not-spots'.

On Tuesday, the operator said it has joined forces with the Countryside Alliance to identify the areas most in need of broadband help, in consultation with "local political influencers" and the government-approved Race Online 2012 campaign. Each of those areas will get free mobile broadband data and devices for a year, and free public access will be provided to communal areas such as pubs and community centres.

According to Three, the "first wave" of the Rural Broadband Working Group project will involve 11 communities. The first — Gringley-on-the-Hill in north Nottinghamshire — has already been identified, with the village to get around 30 dongles and MiFi devices.

"We had written to the House of Lords, our local MP, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and even a large fixed-line provider about the lack of comprehensive broadband in the community, but with no success," Gringley-on-the-Hill Parish Council chairman Hugo Dunkley said in a Three statement. "Mobile broadband has addressed this problem, and the dongles are allowing the people and businesses of the village to use the internet to its full potential for the first time."

A Three spokesperson said every village selected for the scheme will have to be in a fixed broadband not-spot — an area where there is little or no service. However, the locations will also have to fall in an area where Three's existing mobile coverage is strong.

The operator said it intends to give away "around four million megabytes" of connectivity to the 11 villages, which works out on average as roughly 30GB per village per month.

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