Rural PAWS

How Rural PAWS works

We are creating a new way of accessing public and information services online, called Rural Public Access Wi-Fi Service, or Rural PAWS for short.

We believe that everyone should be able to access the Internet whenever, wherever.

In society, certain things are considered so important that everyone is guaranteed access to them regardless of who we are, where we live, or how much money we have. Access to healthcare through the NHS is one example or the right for every child to receive primary and secondary education for free. We want Rural PAWS to do the same thing for Internet access.

PAWS works by sharing resources that would otherwise have gone unused.

Rural PAWS makes use of the spare capacity in existing satellite broadband. At locations where Rural PAWS access will be provided, a satellite terminal is installed. Using the unused capacity of the satellite broadband system, the Rural PAWS box shares this unused capacity with Rural PAWS users within range of its Wi-Fi signal.

Anyone signed up to Rural PAWS can access it with a Wi-Fi enabled device (e.g laptop, smartphone, tablet computer) whenever they are within range of a Rural PAWS box.

Because Rural PAWS utilises the unused capacity from the satellite broadband network, it cannot be used for everything. For example, online services such as like BBC iPlayer and Youtube need too much bandwidth. However Rural PAWS will enable email and social networking sites and access to key public services and websites.

Importantly, PAWS will also allow access to public services.

The Government plans to save £2bn a year of tax payers’ money by moving access to public services online. They're calling this Digital by Default. This can only work if everyone can get online! PAWS can help make this possible.


The research described here is supported by the award made by the RCUK Digital Economy programme to the dot.rural Digital Economy Hub; award reference: EP/G066051/1.