In rural England, churches are utilising their spires as beacons for wireless broadband internet. David Cameron had pledged high-speed broadband to every home in the UK, reaching out to the remaining 5% of the population. It may seem daunting to provide wireless internet to a million more properties, but the Church of England has offered its structural assistance through 10,000 rural churches.
The Church of England is currently providing WiSpire, a broadband service, across Norfolk via 47 churches. Every wireless internet spire covers an area within a radius of 2.5-miles. Sir Tony Baldry, head of the Church Buildings Council, conversed with rural affairs ministers and opened up the use of spires and towers. Due to their ideal locations in the rural areas, they can reach the homes without broadband internet.
Rory Stewart, the rural affairs minister, appreciates the opportunity the Church of England proposes. He acknowledges how the church spires allow point-to-point coverage, extending even to the remotest of rural areas.
Churches as Buildings
Many of these churches are listed buildings, and from an architectural perspective, they could be ‘visually tarnished’. Steve Maine, the chief executive of WiSpire, comments on the structural issue affecting the project. They are working on a design to obscure the devices, and also, to maintain the building’s fabrication — that its careful installation does not damage or penetrate lead roofs.
The rural churches, once utilised for the project, will become broadband beacons — archaic buildings equipped with modern technology. M&E Maintenance Solutions Ltd, a building fabric services provider, suggests the importance of the building’s fabric maintenance. Churches, in particular, are sturdy structures but technicians must handle them with caution.
For the Greater Good
Peter Aiers, the south-east director of the Churches Conservation Trust, concludes that the broadband installation looks to benefit both the church and the local community. It improves the quality of life in the village by turning a church into a 21st-century facility while barely affecting its aesthetic value.
The churches also receive ample funding to maintain upkeep, and the citizens who will benefit, mostly composed of farmers, can stay connected.