Norfolk villages urged to get in-spired to improve broadband

Rural villages in Norfolk have been urged to look to the local church to help get faster broadband.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman is promoting a WiSpire initiative, where a transmitter is put in a church tower and can provide wireless broadband to the surrounding area.

He has backed the EDP/Norfolk County Council Say Yes to Better Broadband campaign for more than four years - and it has been given a masssive boost with the award of the �30m contract to BT.

But Mr Freeman said some rural areas may not benefit from it and they have to come with their own 'innovative solutions.'

He visited a project already up and running at Beeston Church, near Dereham, and said: 'The announcement by the county council that faster broadband for Norfolk is one step closer is great news but many remote villages which are located far away from exchanges may not benefit immediately from the broadband upgrade. The WiSpire initiative is ideal for small rural Norfolk villages that have a church and at least 25 households who don't want to wait for the roll out of faster broadband access to reach them.'

Mr Freeman is asking villages in his constituency to get in touch if they think they could join the initiative, which is a joint venture between the Diocese of Norwich and FreeClix and can deliver up to 8mbps of high speed wireless broadband internet access to local businesses, schools and homes.

Places across Norfolk where it is already live include Beeston, Blofield Heath, Norwich, Oulton Broad, Postwick, Rackheath, Ringland and Salhouse.

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Others being lined up to join the network soon as it is rolled out include Ashill, Barnham Broom, Carbrooke, Saham Toney, Woodbastwick, Garvestone, Great Melton, Great Plumstead, Little Melton and South Walsham.

Mr Freeman said: 'It can deliver fast broadband within three months. All a village needs is 25 potential customers wanting a service and help from a council to cover the one-off installation cost of about �2000. All the 114 villages in my constituency could potentially have fast broadband for less than �200,000.'

Poor broadband is a major hindrance to rural areas and Mr Freeman added: 'Access to fast broadband is so important for the many small businesses who keep our rural economy vibrant.

'Beeston Church is a great example of a traditional parish church at the centre of Norfolk village life but instead of using its bells to reach its parishioners it can use its height to beam out broadband signals and bring twenty first century benefits to the people of Beeston. Initiatives like WiSpire could mean that our churches continue to play an integral part in our rural communities.'

Meanwhile, villagers at Shipdham, will this week be asked for their thoughts on joining the project.

The parochial church council has held talks with WiSpire. And an open meeting to discuss whether All Saints' Church should agree to sign up will take place there on Friday, 7pm.

In a message to villagers inviting them to go along, air their views and question WiSpire representatives, the Rev Louise Alder says the discussion will help the church council to decide whether or not to proceed. She describes the proposed transmitter as small.