FED UP of waiting for broadband to come “charging over the hill”, a group of villagers at Lingen decided to take matters into their own hands.

Five years later, the Lingen Community Broadband initiative is widely seen as the area’s salvation. It not only provides an affordable service for a growing number of customers, it has just received a rural community award in a prestigious national competition.

Filling a desperate void in this sparsely populated area, the not-for-profit group now brings an efficient service for farmers, local businesses, private homes, village halls and even a local primary school. Thanks to the efforts of a small but determined group, villages including Kinsham, Byton, Pembridge and Shobdon have effectively become switched on.

Group chairman, Steve Sanders said that Lingen’s broadband service exists for people in the area.

“Our mission statement is to supply broadband to those who can’t reliably and affordably access a service,” he said. “We’re not here to compete with the major providers, if they come along then we can put our feet up.”

For a time Lingen benefited from a limited service, funded by an Advantage West Midlands grant, but it was not a commercial success.

“They pulled the plug, though the previous provider gave us the network,” said Mr Sanders. “We kept thinking that broadband was bound to come charging over the hill, but of course it didn’t.

“Rural broadband suffers because it is not commercially viable,” he said. “In our part of the world, we are in a technological void as far as mobile and internet connections go.”

Prompted by local man, David Tame, the group decided to go for David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ drive in 2010, and do the job themselves. With a “modicum” of financial help from Herefordshire Council, they got to work, the costs largely borne by the group. The system was refitted, refurbished and upgraded, and the Lingen broadband service was up and running. Signals are beamed from the Clee Hill and from Pencombe.

Said Mr Sanders: “We now have something like 100 users on the system emanating from Kinsham, Byton, Pembridge and Shobdon, including private residences, a number of businesses and farmers who rely totally on broadband, as well as families and children doing their homework.”

Shobdon Primary School has just been connected, and a number of village halls have also been added to the system.

Mr Sanders said the group was proud of the accolade from competition organisers, agronomy company Agri, who were looking for rural champions. The national winner is to be announced later this summer.

“It has made a different to our local communities,” said Mr Sanders. “We have given an alternative, and salvation, for the area.”