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DIY broadband in northern England

There's proposed legislation in the state of Georgia that would effectively stop cities and counties from providing fast internet connections, the way they provide sewer service or other utilities. If even one household already has a broadband connection in a local area, then the municipality would be prevented from building its own system.

The fight is not just in Georgia, it's nationwide. After the telephone and cable companies declined to build a fast fiber optic network in Lafayette, Louisiana, the city built its own. That's at least one victory for municipalities, but Internet companies have been fighting these public broadband networks and have won outright bans in some states.

Across the Atlantic in rural Britain, residents of the village Arkholme in Northern Lancashire were told it would be too expensive to bring high-speed internet to the community. So, they're building a fiber optic network by themselves. It's called "Broadband for the Rural North", known by the acronym BARN.

Drawing on some local tech expertise, residents got training in how to do it. Retired art teacher Harry Ball is now hooked up to an internet connection fast enough to watch movies on.

"Because it's so sparsely populated, nobody wanted to give us a decent broadband, and why would they? There's no money in it for them," says Ball. "A lot of local people decided if we wanted it, we were going to have to get it ourselves."

The project gives new meaning to the do-it-yourself trend. Area residents teamed up to dig trenches, lay their own fiber optic cables and connect each and every household.

"It's been a wonderful community experience because people have really, really come together," says Ball.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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