It takes a village: Welsh residents build a 24 km trench for faster Wi-Fi

The people of Michaelston-y-Fedw became so fed up with their slow internet that they decided to lay faster cables on their own.

They took matters into their own hands

Residents work together digging a massive trench in an effort to improve their town's internet connection. (submitted by Carina Dunk)
Listen6:44

Residents of a tiny Welsh village are so fed up with their slow internet that they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Fifty of Michaelston-y-Fedw's 300 residents banded together to dig up 24 kilometres of trenches to install faster broadband cables.

"I didn't need asking twice," community member and resident "splice queen" Carina Dunk told As It Happens guest host Robyn Bresnahan.

Although only 11 kilometres from a large city centre, the small village of Michaelston-y-Fedw has been ignored by big internet companies, with many homes receiving just 3 Mbps of internet speed. By comparison, residents will be looking at 1,000 Mbps (or 1Gb) once their cables and trench project is finished.

"We can't download a film, we can't watch BBC iPlayer.  If we're sending emails or browsing the internet then that connection will drop," said Dunk. 

"Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe it."

The idea to tackle the problem once and for all was born — to no surprise — at the local pub. And after some old-fashioned door-knocking to assess community interest, it became clear there was enough support to make the project work.

"'Trench across my fields I don't mind if I'm going to get a gigabit upload,'" Dunk recalled one farmer saying.

With 50 per cent of the trench-digging completed, the first houses are coming online — and Michaelston-y-Fedw is beginning to see changes in its daily operations.

"Barry Dixon for example ... he's got a web-design company and he says when [he would] upload information he would go off and make a cup of coffee. But since he's been connected he can't. He's drinking so much less coffee. Everything now is so much quicker!"

Jim Dunk (left) is in charge of installing the routers in everyone's home, and Carina (middle) oversees splicing fibre connections. Carina says she knew "absolutely nothing," about such matters when the project began. (submitted by Carina Dunk)

Dunk says faster internet speeds will benefit the approximately 50 businesses that are run from home in Michaelston-y-Fedw.

Dunk also looks forward to settling in with an episode of one of her favourite shows — Homeland, or maybe NCIS — without having to wait for it to buffer.

But perhaps even more exciting is the effect this endeavour has had on community building in Michaelston-y-Fedw.

"My husband lived in the village for 41 years, but up until 9 months ago, he only knew the very few people that were immediately around him...By the end of the project he will have been introduced to everyone in the village."

"It's just so amazing. It is wonderful to see the community come together."

Written by Sarah Claydon. Produced by Samantha Lui. 

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