Church towers could become broadband hubs header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

Plans to use church steeples as fixed wireless points to provide broadband for rural communities have been revealed by the Diocese of Bath and Wells and local internet provider Wild West Net.

The unusual use of religious buildings is being tested as part of a pilot scheme in remote parts of south western England that are not included in Broadband Delivery UK’s (BDUK) rollout of superfast broadband. The trial areas are Ashbritte and Levels in Somerset, but there is potential for the scheme to be expanded if it is successful.

Diocese representative Richard Tulloch said: "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 roll-out of superfast broadband in our county."

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."

In terms of local superfast broadband, BDUK has elected to fund Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS), which aims to connect 90 per cent of the two counties to the technology. Thus far, CDS has connected more than 600 cabinets and 170,000 properties throughout the area. However, solutions for the remaining ten per cent have received relatively little attention.

BDUK is designed to provide superfast access to 95 per cent of the UK. The government has committed to connecting the remaining five per cent by 2020, but plans to use alternative technologies such as satellite connections. However, funding and methodology for this initiative has yet to be confirmed.

Technology leaders such as Openreach chief executive officer Joe Garner has previously explained that finding appropriate solutions for connecting the most remote properties in the UK would pose significant challenges, and disputed the view that broadband providers simply do not want to operate in these areas.