Plans for Norfolk’s church tower WiFi prove popular

More than 100 churches have signed up for a scheme which will use the historic buildings to transmit high-speed broadband signals to nearby homes.

Wispire is a joint project run by the Norwich Diocese and city-based internet service provider Freeclix.

It aims to use church towers as 'high spots' to install wireless broadband receivers and transmitters which will give businesses and homes close by access to a high speed internet connection.

Since the plans were announced last month, David Broom, director of operations at Norwich Diocese said he had been overwhelmed by the interest from churches, businesses leaders and individuals from all over the Diocese who struggled with poor broadband connections.

'Registrations are coming in thick and fast through the Wispire website,' he said. 'We have got about 112 churches signed up now.'

The team is now putting together a roll-out programme which will see areas with the greatest need – like broadband not-spots – prioritised along with those likely to generate a revenue for the business.

Mr Broom said: 'For each church, the investment is probably a couple of thousand pounds so we have got to be generating enough potential income to make it sustainable and capable of funding the next church.'

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A pilot is set to be launched in the next few weeks.

But some concerns have been raised about the scheme because of potential health concerns associated with the wireless technology.

In a European Assembly report published this month, the environment, agriculture and local and regional affairs committee suggests banning mobile phones and WiFi signals in schools.

The report says research is still ongoing into any potentially harmful effects from low-frequency eletromagnetic fields but, since 'anxieties and fears remain in wide sectors of the population', a pre-cautionary approach should be taken until 'high levels of scientific and clinical proof is available'.

Mr Broom said the Diocese was aware of the concerns. He said: 'We understand that people are anxious of the effects of radio signals. In the scheme of things, what we are proposing is in every day use and is very low powered.'

He said the European Assembly report contradicted advice given by the Health Protection Agency and World Health Organisation.

He added: 'Clearly, we will continue to monitor that. Should the HPA or WHO modify its own advice we will take stock of that.'

victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk

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