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WiFi provision in churches: perspectives from the countryside

16 January 2015


From the Revd Dr Richard F. Venn
Sir, - Further to your report about WiFi-enabled churches (News, 9 January), I write about our experience. This is a rural four-parish benefice in Kent, and we have recently had broadband repeaters installed on all four church towers.

These provide fast broadband for the surrounding villages by line-of-sight wireless, and receive their signal from other repeaters in the network. Thus the whole community benefits from high-quality fast broadband access, and each church receives an annual fee for providing this facility. Each church also benefits from very fast broadband access via a wireless router.

The company involved (Vfast) have provided all the equipment, installed all the electrical cabling. and paid for the faculty and legal fees surrounding the granting of licences for the operation. Furthermore, fast broadband is provided to one of the village halls for use of the church office and the parish council, as well as to the Vicarage in Lenham.

Each PCC is considering how it will further capitalise on this facility. We have not yet considered some of the interactive systems described in your article, but we certainly propose offering internet cafés and other interactive heritage-access systems for the community at large.

This was not achieved rapidly. The wheels of the Church's legal system grind exceedingly slowly, and frequently needed oiling with judicious questioning such as "What on earth is holding this up now?" From first proposal to final installation and operation has taken just under two years, with immense frustration.

We are, however, very pleased with the system, and look forward to encouraging our communities to use the facilities more and more.

As an aside, we obtained a postcode for one of our churches by the simple expedient of (temporarily) fixing a letter box to the church outer door and sending ourselves some letters.

Priest-in-Charge, Len Valley Benefice
The Vicarage, Old Ashford Road
Lenham, Maidstone ME17 2PX

From the Revd Peter Sear
Sir, - I read with interest (but also some apprehension) about Lord Lloyd-Webber's plans to give WiFi access to every church. But before WiFi-ed churches can become "centres of their communities once again" something will have to be done to improve internet speed in some rural areas.

Perhaps Lord Lloyd-Webber or the Government could help with this where BT seems unable to help. A few years ago, the internet was hailed as the opportunity to bring new life and employment opportunities to rural areas; and yet it is our rural areas - I imagine, because there are fewer potential customers for high-speed internet than in an urban area - that are in danger of being left behind.

Plumtree Cottage, 1 Rodmore Road
Evercreech, Shepton Mallet
Somerset BA4 6JL

From Mr Edward Mynors
Sir, - I am astounded to read that the Church of England is planning to fit every church with WiFi internet access. When people are dying from the Ebola virus and Islamist persecution, surely there are higher priorities? In this parish, two of our churches do not have electricity yet, and mobile-phone coverage varies from patchy to non-existent; but we are quite happy, and would not have it any other way.

Barn Owls, Cooks Lane
Walderton, Chichester
West Sussex PO18 9QB

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