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Hallelujah! Somerset churches to help deliver superfast broadband

Wednesday, August 19th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Churches in Somerset are to be used to deliver superfast broadband to rural communities.

The Diocese of Bath and Wells is working with internet provider Wild West Net to deliver the service.

Church towers will be used as fixed wireless points from which signals can be transmitted to other churches and anyone who decides to sign up.

The diocese has been working on the initiative for two years and is currently working with parish councils, businesses and residents to finalise plans for two pilot schemes.

One is planned for a cluster of churches around Ashbrittle, just outside Wellington, and the other will be in the Levels, which suffers from poor internet speeds and is prone to flooding.

The news follows last week’s announcement that the rollout of government-funded superfast broadband has reached more than 3m homes and businesses. The national scheme is co-ordinated locally by Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS), which is aiming to reach 90% of premises in the two counties by the end of 2016.

Richard Tulloch, church use and visitors adviser at the Diocese of Bath and Wells, said: “Whilst the progress made so far by CDS is commendable, what of the remaining 10%? They are likely to be those in the most rural areas.

“Our churches exist to serve everyone in the local community and be at the very heart of community life.

“There is no better way to demonstrate this than using our towers – typically the tallest buildings in rural areas – to complement the rollout of superfast broadband in our county.”

'Vital step'

Tim Newman, managing director of Wild West Net, said: “We are delighted to have been approached by the Diocese of Bath and Wells and are looking forward to working with the diocese and its parishes across Somerset.”

The innovative project is not the first time a Somerset community has taken the need for superfast broadband into its own hands.

Cable.co.uk reported earlier this year that residents of Claverton, near Bath, had partly funded the rollout of fibre broadband to the village themselves.

The project, thought to be the first time a village has privately co-funded both types of superfast cabinet and a new network infrastructure alongside BT, involved laying 4km of overhead and underground cabling and installing two new green street cabinets.

One cabinet delivers superfast fibre broadband and the other carries standard telephony services such as phone calls and standard broadband over copper lines.

Residents of Bath's Royal Crescent have also 'co-funded' the cost of a superfast broadband cabinet.

Colin Clarkson–Short, chairman of the Royal Crescent Society, said: “This is a vital step into the future for an historic location, which is famous throughout the world.

“When we realised that we would not be included in existing superfast plans we got together as a community to work with BT to solve the problem. It was a great example of the local community working together.”

Picture courtesy of Derek Harper.

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