Smart Solutions

Local Fibre-Optic Network

The creation by villagers of their own fibre-optic network for high-speed data transfer.

Implemented inRaudanmaa

Country : Finland

What’s the solution?

The installation of a comprehensive fibre-optic network in a village by engaging local residents in the creation of a local cooperative and applying for funding (for example from LEADER) to pay for the public works required to dig and lay fibre-optic cables. Cooperation and planning with local landowners is essential (for example, to plan around farming schedules) and planned network maps should be checked by external experts. Construction can be undertaken by local volunteers or outsourced to an external company (where funding allows).

What makes it smart?

The solution demonstrates social innovation, using the power of the local community coming together to form a cooperative in order to overcome the market barriers that mean that commercial operators and the municipality were not willing to engage in the construction of a fibre optic network.

In doing so it overcomes the digital divide in order to tackle the root cause of disadvantage that can negatively impact the development potential of many rural areas.



How is the solution implemented?

  • Start by exploring local interest in the creation of a local fibre-optic network.
  • Seek ways to increase this interest, by spreading the word and explaining the potential benefits if everyone engages.
  • Engage with local landowners early in the process to explain the project and how everything can be planned together with them (for example planning works after a harvest)
  • Create a local structure - such as a cooperative - to plan and manage the required works.
  • Seek local funding opportunities - for example LEADER - to pay for the laying of the cables
  • Check whether any other public works are to be carried out in the area (e.g. other public utilities) so that interventions can be combined.
  • Once the number of interested local households is confirmed, draw up an initial route map of the network and get this checked by an external expert.
  • Map out the availability of local volunteers and equipment for the laying of the cables and/or launch a call for a construction company to carry out the works.
  • Using the funding obtained, source the necessary fibre-optic cables, spot test the cables and launch the construction phase.
  • Continue to hold regular meetings with the cooperative members throughout the project
  • Ensure to carry out full documentation, audit and evaluation of the intervention together with the local authorities.

In what local context has it been applied?

Raudanmaa is a developing village in Kangasala, in a beautiful lake landscape close to the biggest inland city of Finland, Tampere. The weakness of telecommunication connections has presented a bottleneck for some companies in terms of business expansion and teleworking.

At the end of 2014, the villagers started to think about creating a fibre optic network through the Raudanmaa Village Association.

Who was behind the implementation?

Raudanmaa optical fibre network co-operative, a company owned and run by the villagers. The project was carried out in close cooperation with Raudanmaa Village Association as well as Elenia Ltd, national electric transmission company and TeliaSonera Ltd, commercial optical fibre network operator.

Co-operative is a company from where each member owns shares of the co-operative and has decision right in the co-operative yearly meeting. Co-operative members typically utilise the services of the co-operative. The practical work is done by elected board, in this case consisting of three members.

What was the local journey?

  • Pre-planning and analysing the size of the network (length & number of members)
  • In the early stage (Feb 2015) 40 households expressed their interest to join based on an internet query on the village website:
  • Sept 2015: Establishment of the Raudanmaa fibre optic network co-operative by the core team that had been planning the project, registering the co-operative in national company register, deciding on the rules of the co-operative.
  • Jan 2016: After a more targeted campaign and contacting all the 122 households of the village, 86 households had decided to join.
  • By the time the project was completed, the total number of members was 97, an additional 11 households had joined throughout its duration.
  • Planning the investment and applying for funds for the implementation from the Kantri LAG
  • Feb 2016: Funding application to Kantri LAG of public funding for 180.000,00 €.
  • After the number and locations of members was known, an initial route map of the network was drawn by the co-op board members.
  • Local landowners were contacted at a very early phase so the network routes and scheduling of the construction would not disturb the farming schedules (so that fields could be dug when crops are not growing). This proved to be a very useful approach as no changes to the routes had to be made in the contracting and building phases.
  • As the local electric transmission company was already planning to replace aerial wires with underground cables in the area, the fibre optic network suggested co-operation to combine the effort, the agreement of the combined project was made in June 2016. This was a very cost-effective solution for undertaking the works - and provided both more security for cost planning and enabled leveraging bidding and negotiations with constructors.
  • Oct 2016: Invitations to tender were planned and sent together with the electric company to 23 constructors, 5 offers were received.
  • Implementing the investment
  • The work division in the project was such that overall responsibility of the network plans and cost management was with the Raudanmaa optic fibre network coop. It had the board following and deciding on practical and financial issues, outsourced person (from the village) to oversee the construction site meetings, and outsourced secretary to handle administrative issues, LAG applications, finances, etc. The contractor had project planning responsibility of the network building, sourcing the needed equipment, all building work and documenting the outcome.
  • Telia was selected as the service provider for the fibre optic network, and their expertise was also used in technical issues and for audits of the network and its documentation.
  • The electric company shared the overall responsibility of the combined project, as most of the network area was common with the electric cabling. Additionally, some very practical tasks could be shared, such as distribution of the contracts to the members, etc.
  • Common meetings with the project participants were held regularly.
  • The selected constructor subcontracted parts of the building work, and unfortunately some of the crews were not very professional (they were changed in the middle of the project). This caused delays and also resulted in cost deductions in the final phase of cost evaluation. In some cases a new crew had to be invited to clean up the final landscaping work on individual properties.
  • All of the material listings and network maps were checked carefully by the cooperative board as well as external auditors to ensure the final quality was satisfactory.
  • The network empty cables for future optic fibre were also spot tested at the end by external company to verify the future capacity and quality of the work. This also resulted in some compensation as not all cables were 100% usable.
  • The network was in use for all the co-op members in January 2018.
  • Final works, documentation and audits, and final evaluation continued throughout 2019.
  • The last invoice was paid in December 2019 and the project was officially closed and the final report to Kantri LAG was handed over on 31.12.2019.

Problems were caused by delays in the subcontracting of the selected contractor and the quality of the final works, which had to be complained about on several occasions. As a result of delays and complaints noted in the invoice, the final cost was reduced.

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • The construction of the fibre optic network as a common project was quite successful and the costs could be predicted well. The fibre-optic network has been operating smoothly since the beginning and has provided weather-proof and sufficient capacity for telecommunications connections in its area.
  • Entrepreneurs in the area have been pleased with the operation of the network.
  • In early 2019 when the project ended, there were 97 subscriptions altogether, so 80% of households within the network operating area joined the cooperative.
  • Raudanmaa optical fibre network also proved to be also a useful pilot project to the electrical transmission company, which is nowadays offering optical fibre network building to their customers.

What does it bring the village/community?

The project supports sustainable development in many ways: by improving the access to public and private services and providing teleworking opportunities to improve and reduce the need for commuting between homes and offices. Fibre optics are a reliable technology for decades to come.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:

Physical infrastructure investment cost

Financial needs:

Initial/set-up costs: € 324,160.00

Ongoing/recurring annual costs: € 0 for the village association, the network user households pay currently:

o 100 € yearly network fee to the cooperative for maintenance and administrative costs;

o Fees for services provided by the service operator.

Funding received:
Public funding through LEADER Kantri LAG180,000 €The physical infrastructure investment cost, public network
Voluntary work of the villagers15,000 €The physical infrastructure investment cost
Raudanmaa optical fibre network co-op. (villagers’ own company)129,160 €The physical infrastructure investment cost
Telia75,000 €Bridge funding (loan) at the initial phase of building to cover for costs

Human resources

The project required voluntary input of many villagers and development enthusiasts, one of the board members had some prior knowledge of optical fibre networks and was working for the commercial operator, so it was possible to get useful contacts to negotiate with or check some technical details

Many participants were entrepreneurs with knowledge of contracting and negotiations. Technical details were learnt during the project.

Leadership skills, technical project management skills (overseeing the technical meetings on the building sites)

Physical resources

Not very rocky parts in the network route

What to do…

  • Contact the landowners at an early stage;
  • Seek local funding, such as LEADER to cover the investment costs
  • Involve the villagers, distribute information regularly;
  • Keep the network operating area feasible;
  • Select the constructor based on their prior quality record, kept schedules, not only cost!
  • Monitor progress & cost reports carefully.
  • Check the fibre optic cables before they are laid

and not to do

  • Do not leave the project solely to the responsibility of the constructor(s);
  • Do not plan the network in too sparsely populated area or a difficult terrain to avoid unnecessary costs;
  • Do not only look at the cost when selecting the constructor.

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