49 projects from 20 European countries applied for the 2017 European Broadband Awards. Out of all of these candidates, KempenGlas is now one of the three champions of the “Innovative models of financing, business and investment” category. The winner will be announced on 20 November. There are 5 categories in total, KempenGlas is the only Dutch competitor.

KempenGlas is a project in the rural area of the Kempen. The project was carried out by volunteers who went door-to-door to involve people in their municipality (locals for locals). Four local cooperatives (one per municipality: Reusel-De Mierden, Oirschot, Bladel, and Moergestel) have been formed along with one joint cooperative “KempenGlas” to facilitate them. The jury: “Through local action and volunteering, it increased trust within the community and lowered the costs, since the population has massively contributed with their share of the required capital. This project has thus created a relevant bonding which allowed the community to get a state-of-the-art network while influencing its further development.”

The initiator Jacco Kwaaitaal, chairman of the KempenGlas Cooperative, is pleased with the recognition. “As an unremunerated volunteer and inhabitant of the Kempen with a little bit of telecom knowledge and some social involvement, it is of course very nice to see how we have all managed to turn frustration about poor internet in the outskirts into real action. The outlying area is not of interest to commercial providers, so we have to do something about it ourselves. Companies and residents have put their heads together, based on a responsibility for the quality of life in their immediate surroundings. Only in this way could KempenGlas be a success.”

According to Kwaaitaal, the decisive factor was the choice of the cooperative approach and the actual deployment of residents who have convinced fellow residents of this opportunity. “When everyone in the neighbourhood participates, the excavation costs are shared and suddenly it is affordable for everyone. The network belongs to all the residents and the users are in control. In addition, you can choose your own additional services from different providers and change them per day.” According to Kwaaitaal, the structure with local cooperations per municipality (ownership) and a joint cooperative operation Kempenglas (which supplies the facilities) ensures local bonding and regional efficiency.

Kwaaitaal says the enthusiasm for participation was unprecedentedly high and currently 80% of the potential addresses have committed themselves. “This has not been shown before on this scale and in this form.” The capital needed also comes for a significant part of the 2228 members: they paid on average 1500 euro, amounting to 3.3 million euro. The BOM added the same amount and a loan of 1.3 million at Rabobank took care of the last bit.

The four participating municipalities voted convincingly for the establishment of KempenGlas as a cooperative.

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Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.