B4RN – “Crowdfunding”!!!!!

According to a recent article in The Visitor, B4RN is proposing to raise £3m through what is being referred to as a “Crowdfunding initiative”. What they are in fact doing is selling bonds that will pay a 4.5 per cent gross interest per year for its seven-year term and the minimum investment is £50.

Photo courtesy of The Visitor

The article says “As a community benefit society, its profits are reinvested back into the community”. It also, however, points out that “As with all investments, capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed.”

As I pointed out last December, B4RN has been trading since 2012, seven years this year. In that time they have never, not in any year, made a profit. Their losses up to March 2018 total £862,208.

The placing is being handled by, what I understand to be, a reputable Bank. But I am sure that the diligent people of Whittington will think long and carefully before joining the “Crowd”.

You can read the full article at this link: “The Visitor”

John Keegan

11 thoughts on “B4RN – “Crowdfunding”!!!!!”

  1. Interesting article- looking to raise up to £5m by the end of April. Raised so far (2nd March) £39k and if they do not exceed £1m by the end of April everyone will get their money back and the bonds will not go ahead.

    Not eligible for the Financial Service Compensation scheme unlike savings with Building Societies and Bank, so if it goes bust unlikely to get any money back as an unsecured creditor. The return of 4.5% gross ( about 3.6% net) is up against a Building Society seven year Bond return of net 2.7% with no risk as part of the FSC scheme.

    The prospectus shows that B4RN are expecting to show a profit this year 2019 however a profit was project in 2017 – loss £235k plus a further loss in 2018 of £112k.

    It is a premium product at a fantastic value and as JK reported last year if the prices were increased by say £6 a month then profits could be made. The issue is that as larger providers improve efficiencies and ‘package’ products such as internet, phone and TV together costs and prices actually reduce.

    On reviewing prices for the May/June 2019 period prices are falling with firms offering fibre (63m) broadband plus telephone line rental and free uk calls anytime for under £30 a month.

    5G is also around the corner and this could change everything in the next 7 years so as I look forward to driverless cars silently going through Whittington and drones dropping off parcels, I too would stress caution on investment.

  2. 5G is something that could spell the death knell of rural broadband.

    Already the possibilities are being touted on the internet and, with or without, Government support, it will be a godsend to rural communities,

    We can only applaud the diligent contribution to our community that the B4RN volunteers have provided. However, you will not have failed to notice that, as the service reaches outlying communities, the volunteers disband, and are no longer available.

    Conventional broadband, via the likes of BT, is unlikely to ever fall short of maintenance support. Volunteer support, on the other hand, is something that will vary with the nature and age of the community.

    5G however, does away with much of the highly local infrastructure and will rely on extremely experienced multinational supercompanies, rather than Community Schemes that lack longterm skills commitment.

    It will be interesting, over the next ten years, to see how B4RN responds to the march of technology.

    Already packages of superfast broadband with a range of add on’s currently outside the scope of B4RN are being advertised. Life is about to become more professional in rural communities. Maybe the days of rats eating Fibre Cable will soon become a thing of the past.

    1. There may be lots of packages via phone line broadband but it only has a fraction of the capacity of B4RN. If you want a futureproof solution then fibre is the way to go. It is like comparing a donkey with a rolls Royce.

  3. 5G is not possible without a real fibre feed to many small cells so it is not possible in rural areas and doubtful for many years in cities. You need to read up about it before speaking about it. Google the writing of Peter Cochrane

  4. Not what I’ve been reading.

    I do remember Barry Forde making this comment some 5 years ago. Time catches up. Whilst B4RN’s continued expansion of the network may be feasible (but needs either many more subscribers or a vast increase in borrowings) however the basic package only has speed going for it and, regretable most peoples laptops and PC’s can’t use the speed.

    Those of us who have been following the progress of B4RN remember the Original Business Plan. Based on the companies performance against that plan there is no reason to have much faith in any predictions the company make.

    The stats for this Blog and the Village website show that the trend is to access by mobile phone, rather than broadband.

    As to future proofing, B4RN only have speed going for it and the other providers are catching up with that, and have the backup, technical support and maintenance capability, and enhanced packages, that B4RN need more subscribers in order to be able to match the competition.

  5. Technology is always moving forward but sometimes you just have to go with what’s available. At the time the village considered B4RN there was no indication from BT (despite £1.7bn from the government to roll out rural broadband) as to when they would be providing fibre to the village and, with very slow speeds for many (less than 4Mbps in my case), the B4RN solution was clearly the way forward.

    I spent 18 months of Saturdays digging for ducting so that we could have a better connection. I did this alongside a core of volunteers who, even after being connected themselves, still chose to turn up and dig so that everybody else would have the same opportunity.

    And what a difference!

    We regularly stream UHD content from Sky and Netflix on multiple devices at the same time. I often do some work from home that involves uploading Gigabytes of data that takes seconds. We’ve ditched our phone line, so no more line rental charges or cold calling to help us claim for mis-sold PPI or claim for the accident we never had.

    It’s a different world! No more watching TV when the schedules dictate. No more having to remember to record an episode of a drama. It’s all there, instantly, for everyone.

    I think there have been two outages during the time that we’ve had B4RN. Both caused by someone digging through the fibre and they were both fixed within an hour or so – I’m not sure that OpenReach would manage that?

    You can wait for 5G if you want, but you’ll be waiting a while. For a start, it requires new cellular masts to be built and, at the moment, is in a limited trial in major cities with intended roll-out targetting busiest locations first.

    Why can’t we celebrate B4RNs achievements in providing a fantastic service, and at a reasonable cost, to many who would still be on a dial-up connection without it?

  6. No, I have BT Infinity. I am never off my computer. I had that before B4RN got round to Loyne Park.

    My main issue is that whilst B4RN’s Broadband has much to recommend it, their financial competence does not and the fact that they are now having to raise more loans, on top of what they already have worried me even more.

    Having superfast Broadband is great as long as the company continues to exist.

  7. Thanks John. I was referring to dial-up for those remote areas that B4RN now provides a service to.

    I don’t know how much BT Infinity is? Maybe £35 per month plus £15 a month line rental? For 50Mbps? Doesn’t sound like the best deal to me.

  8. My wife insists that speed isn’t everything, she always has her eye on what it costs her!!

    Currently, in our area you can get the following 63Mb Broadband Deals:
    TalkTalk – £22.45pm
    BT £29.99pm
    Plusnet – £26.99pm
    Vodaphone – £25.99pm
    Now – £30.00pm

    I find that so many of my contacts, including family and local businesses, have mobile phone numbers, that the free calls (which are only to landlines) are becoming less and less important. Currently, my phone calls cost me £2.82 per month because I use FB Messenger with family calls that would otherwise be charged at Mobile rates.

    Many of the services have extras available that are now part of life. Sports channels, call blocking, subscriber ID being among them.

    I do appreciate your observations regarding download speeds. However, the only downloads I use are SKY and BBC iPlayer, both of which download whilst I am offline so whatever speed they have has no impact on me. I download B4RN accounts in seconds, as I do Planning Documents from LCC. If I was downloading business data then speed would be irrelevant, 2 seconds download, as opposed to 10 seconds, in respect of data that I would analyse over four or five hours seems of little import.

    My uploads to the Village website take less than 11 seconds every month (cumulative). In both instances of download and upload, I find that my increasing years provide me with a cushion of patience that isolates me from the impatience which younger members of the community suffer.

    Our peak internet load is when family visit. I have yet to notice any impact on my use of SKY Go, Netflix, BBC Sport or Amazon Prime or any live broadcasts such as BBC, CH4 or video clips from Facebook or Twitter, during such occasions.

    I am sure that a 1.5 hour program from Netflix still lasts 1.5 hours when viewed on a B4RN feed.

    When you get a little older, Jim, you will come to realize that speed does not enhance quality every time.

  9. Many thanks for your comprehensive response, John.

    It’s interesting to hear that the alternatives are not as expensive as I thought and it certainly sounds like you make full and varied use of your connection. And, as you say, what’s a little extra time here and there?

    Cheers!

  10. On the other hand Jim, I will be 79 in June and really should be making better use of the time I have left. At least, according to Maureen!!

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