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SeeRound Online February 2017 Issue 1

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Dunton leads the way with church broadband project for two villages

St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Dunton, Bedfordshire

St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Dunton, Bedfordshire

With a real mixture of urban and rural areas, St Albans Diocese has its share of areas where broadband speeds are very poor, harming the community and reinforcing the effects of rural poverty with yet another challenge – sometimes described as the digital divide.

St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Dunton, Bedfordshire is one of several churches across the country, but the first in St Albans Diocese, to help redress this through providing its spire to allow high-speed WiFi access for the local community. The height of the spire and the location of the church at the heart of the community make this very effective.

A local resident (whose wife happens to attend St Mary’s) pursued the project with the church after the local community voiced their objections to the placing of a WiFi mast in the village playground.

Dunton residents can now get good broadband speeds up to 25 or 30 Mbits across the whole village from the eight aerials installed on the tower, barely visible in the picture above. They distribute the broadband signal beamed wirelessly from the local leisure centre in Biggleswade, a couple of miles away, to small dishes installed on houses in the village which allow the WiFi signal to be received. A relay from the link will allow residents of Millow, a closely neighbouring village, to enjoy the same benefits.

The PCC was very open to the project, seeing it as part of their mission to help the local community. They sought and obtained the faculty required for the project. The successful project has led to a ‘Telecomms Guidance’ note being made available by our diocese at: www.stalbans.anglican.org/finance/dac-advice-leaflets/ which should help other parishes interested in pursuing similar projects.

It is thought that there are as almost two-thirds of the Church of England’s 16,000 parish churches which are located in rural areas of which some will have the potential for similar projects, emphasising just how central churches still are to community life.

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