Rural Broadband Working Group to bring millions of MBs of free mobile broadband to rural areas

August 30th 2011: Three and the Countryside Alliance today announces the launch of a project aimed at getting people online in rural areas of poor or non-existent broadband.

Called the Rural Broadband Working Group, the initiative will see the operator work with local politicians and the Countryside Alliance to identify rural broadband ‘not-spots’ and give away around 4m MBs of free connectivity, alongside the dongles and MiFi’s needed to get people online.

The project, which will also involve input from Race Online 2012, is aimed at helping communities, families and businesses in rural areas that while not served by fixed line broadband providers, do have access to Three’s high speed mobile Internet network.

The first wave of activity will see the group working with local political influencers to identify eleven rural communities, and to provide free mobile broadband data and devices for a year. In addition, free public access will be provided in communal areas such as pubs and community centres using a MiFi device.

As well as the social and educational benefits broadband brings, the initiative will also help local communities save thousands of pounds each year, with research by the post office suggesting families with broadband access can save up to £840 every 12-months by being connected

The first village to receive free connectivity is Gringley-on-the-Hill in North Nottinghamshire. The village of around 750 people, has a pub, village hall, church and school but poor quality access to fixed line broadband services. Gringley-on-the-Hill is set to get around 30 mobile broadband dongles and MiFi devices. Some of these will provide access in the local pub and community centre.

Hugo Dunkley, Chairman of the Gringley-on-the-Hill Parish Council, said: “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. There was broadband in a small corner of the village but everywhere else speeds were frustratingly slow.

“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.”

Sarah Lee, Head of Policy for the Countryside Alliance said: “The lack of access to broadband internet in the countryside is a major concern which is holding back many rural businesses. The recent Government announcement of financial help to bring broadband to rural communities is welcome, but not enough, and may yet take several years to be properly realised.

“Mobile internet access could be the answer to bridging the digital divide in the countryside and we, together with the other members of the Rural Broadband Working Group, are looking forward to identifying communities that can really benefit from mobile broadband.”

David Dyson, CEO at Three said, “Thousands of communities still cannot access fixed line broadband services, but they do have access to a mobile broadband network, and that’s where this new initiative comes in.

“We have built a network designed for the Internet and are passionate about using this to help more and more people experience the everyday benefits this can bring.”

Leigh Smyth, Managing Director for Race Online 2012, the cross-sector partnership organisation which aims to help millions more people in the UK to get online commented: ‘Race Online 2012 is committed to helping the 8.7 million offline adults in the UK benefit from everything the web has to offer. Mobile broadband can play a crucial role in achieving this, particularly in rural areas’.

* Based on Google’s 2010 estimates that the average webpage was now 320kb

Notes to Editors

Contact information.

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About Three

Three is a communications company. We are focused on challenging the industry to make mobile better for everyone.

We want to give customers a quality mobile experience and address the industry issues that frustrate them.

We were the first UK network to introduce all-you-can-eat data and offer 4G at no extra cost. We let customers roam abroad with their domestic bundle for no extra charge and do not charge for calling 0800 numbers.

We continue to look at ways of improving the experience we offer our customers.

Three carries over 45% of the UK’s mobile data. Our 3G network covers 98% of the UK population.

We launched 4G in 2014 and plan to have 50 cities and 200 towns covered by 4G by December 2014. By the end of 2015 98% of the population will be able to access 4G through a combination of new sites and deploying new spectrum.

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