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Wireless churches send rural broadband speeds spire-ralling

A pioneering broadband project using church towers to beam signals across Norfolk has won funding to expand its network with a WiFi access portal.

WiSpire is a joint venture between the Church of England Diocese of Norwich and internet provider Freeclix to tackle the rural county’s poor broadband services, village-by-village.

The latest addition is Loddon and Chedgrave, where community blogger Loddoneye has won funding to turn his website into the access point for a WiFi access portal.

Norwich Cathedral spire by Eslie esq./Flickr

Loddoneye, known in the meat world as Ben Olive, said: “The project, under the working title of #21VC, will bring high speed internet connectivity to the centre of Loddon and Chedgrave via a local news and views platform (this website) whilst also providing niche local advertising for businesses and events in the nearby Norfolk area.

“The Loddon Eye will provide a ‘doorway’ to this high speed internet and make use of the improved connectivity to deliver relevant hyperlocal news and opinions for Loddon and the surrounding area.

“Underpinning the project will be Addiply, a bespoke advertising service designed especially for hyperlocal community websites that will provide a flexible and efficient way for South Norfolk’s businesses to advertise to a highly relevant local market.”

The funding for #21VC has come from NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, a charity sponsored by the National Lottery to foster innovation and deliver radical new ideas.

Dozens of village church towers dominate the flat Norfolk landscape, making them ideal for WiSpire’s network of wireless transmitters and receivers.

The Loddon and Chedgrave WiSpire access point will be mounted on the spire of the Holy Trinity church, from where individual subscribers will also be able to connect via small antennas on their homes and businesses.

Rick Waghorn, Ceo and co-founder of Addiply, told Loddoneye: “We can now make Loddon and Chedgrave one of the most digitally enabled rural communities in the UK.

“We can hopefully build a sustainable, web-based news and information ‘portal’ for the villages. It will, I hope, prove to be a show home for some of the best digital and mobile applications out there right now – that should then prove of huge benefit to every sector of the community.”

WiSpire offers an up-to-8Mbps service, which might not meet the government’s 24Mbps target for the UK, but is an eightfold or better step up in speed for most users, and far more reliable.

It costs from £13/month, plus a £60 installation, and includes a wireless telephone service option for users who want to abandon their landline altogether.

The service starts at Freeclix’s base in Norwich, which connects via wireless to a master antenna on Norwich Cathedral, and reaches out to nearby churches, which connect through to more distant churches in outlying villages.

WiSpire will have 16 churches connected by the end of this summer, and expects to be beaming from 50 churches all over Norfolk by the end of 2012. 

Image: Elsie esq./Flickr. Story inspired by The Daily Telegraph