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Essex church spires to act as wireless rural broadband antenna

Churches in Essex could have their spires retrofitted as wireless broadband antennas, helping to connect remote communities. 

Communities across the district of Uttlesford could benefit from a plan drawn up by the Rev Dr Julie Nelson, who is rural officer at the Diocese of Chelmsford.

Nelson believes that using the height of local churches’ towers to deliver wireless broadband could help hard to reach communities that might not be connected to superfast broadband by the likes of BT and Virgin Media. 

Essex church spires to act as wireless rural broadband antenna

Perhaps taking a leaf out of the WiSpire plan in Norfolk, Nelson has revealed to local paper Saffron Walden Reporter that the Diocese is working with a company on bridging the growing digital divide.

Nelson said: “The Church is interested in community health and community resilience and today an essential requirement for any community is broadband – it’s the fourth utility. 

“Young families are choosing not to live in areas where broadband service is poor and local businesses are considering moving out – trends that threaten the long-term sustainability of rural communities.” 

It’s a situation we’ve seen in isolated places like Ettrick and Yarrow, which have experienced high levels of youth migration, partially attributed to a lack of broadband. 

As part of the BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) programme, Essex County Council and BT will be connecting 500,000 homes and businesses to superfast broadband. The £24.6million project will reach roughly 87 per cent of premises by Summer 2016. A year from then, 95 per cent of the county will be connected. 

While the majority of locations will benefit from the plan, the project will take a number of years before it’s fully finished and won’t cover everyone. This is where something like a local project could come in to fill in the gap. 

Unless the local authority can raise more money for street cabinets, as Tendring did, it looks like the local churches will be the only salvation. 

Image: Jim Linwood/Flickr


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