“Coviolo Wireless” from Italy is one of the five winners of the European Broadband Awards 2017. This bottom-up project has been implemented by a group of citizens affiliated to the Neighbourhood Social Center of Coviolo, in collaboration with the Municipality of Reggio Emilia and Lepida Spa. A white spot area was covered with wireless broadband. Users have now access to high speed internet at an affordable cost. The capacity of the network can be expanded up to 1 Gbps without any structural intervention.

Illustration of the Coviolo Wireless from Italy

The project is the result of a bottom-up participatory process.

Wireless broadband infrastructure helps to fight the digital divide

“Coviolo Wireless” is the winner in the Category 4: “Socio-economic impact and affordability”. The project helped to overcome the digital divide in the neighbourhood of Coviolo through a broadband wireless infrastructure. It allows people in a suburban area, that was lacking offers from the market, access to Internet guaranteeing an affordable service cost to the whole community.

The funding of the infrastructure is from public sources (Municipality and Regional government) while management costs are borne by the local community members. The project is the result of a bottom-up participation process organised by the Municipality in the area of Coviolo as well as by other parts of its territory, to ensure a better cohesion between the various neighbourhoods of the city. The cost of the project was EUR 33.582 (EUR 10.000 from the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, EUR 14.582 from the Neighbourhood Social Centre (NSC) of Coviolo and EUR 9.000 from the Lepida spa). No EU Funds were used.

The proposal was developed within a participatory process launched by the Municipality of Reggio Emilia in Coviolo, and is part of the initiative “neighborhood as commons”, which promotes new arenas of participation for associations and individual citizens willing to co-designing the public policies at a neighbourhood level.

The projects provided 100 Mbps internet connectivity to the access point – main broadband hub - in the city centre of Reggio Emilia. The (dark) optical fibre owned by the Municipality of Reggio Emilia was used to connect the main broadband hub with Coviolo area (new local hub). The project activated a radio broadband bridge at 26 Ghz on registered frequencies to remove any interference between the new local hub and the Neighborhood Social Center of Coviolo. It also activated a radio reproduction site Point to MultiPoint (standard HiperLAN (High Performance Radio LAN)) to carry out a radio broadband bridge. Furthermore, 4 sector antennas were installed in the Coviolo area and a client radio HiperLAN CPE 5Ghz radio in the houses of the individual users.

What was achieved?

Coviolo is a neighbourhood with 2.468 inhabitants. The benefits of the project are ensuring the right of access to broadband WiFi for all citizens, even those in peripheral areas, and guarantee affordable costs for the users. Before the project’s implementation, the local community of Coviolo had access to Internet only with low speed ADSL (from 2 to 5 Mbps). After the project implementation, the users can access Internet with symmetric 30 Mbps (download & upload), sharing 100 Mbps internet access that can be expanded to 1 Gbps without any structural intervention.

The experience has been considered by the local members as a good result of public participation process where “the distance” between the city centre of Reggio Emilia and Coviolo has been reduced. The registration as a member of the Neighborhood Social Center is open to all citizens at a cost of EUR 15 for a membership card and EUR 10 for a monthly internet fee, that includes the cost of maintenance of the property and damage insurance. That is about 50% less than the average market price.

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