In Starston, like many other small rural villages across Norfolk, not all households have access to superfast broadband or have a reliable mobile telephone signal, facilities taken for granted by many urban households.
With one third of the village being unable to access superfast broadband under the current “Better Broadband for Norfolk” rollout scheme, the Parish Council and Starston Jubilee Hall have worked together, with the support of their District Councilor, Clayton Hudson, to install a community superfast broadband hotspot in the village. This is being funded by grants from South Norfolk and the Parish Council.
This service has already proved invaluable to local residents within weeks of its installation – one family who moved into the village just before Christmas was told by BT that there was no telephone line to the house. This was not the case but as a result there is a month’s delay in installing a telephone line and internet connection. The facility at the village hall, a short walk from their home, can provide both services to them, until they have the service at home. Another household lost their telephone line and internet connection following engineering work in the village, and are using the village facility on an almost daily basis to stay in contact with friends and family and contact BT about the fault!
When Ann Leitch, Parish Council Chairman, was asked about the benefits to the village of the community Wi-Fi hotspot she said “It is fantastic. The Starston Children’s Christmas Party benefited from being able to stream music for the games such as musical chairs and pass the parcel directly from the internet. Any meetings held at the hall, such as the Parish Council, can now easily show documents to everyone at the meeting via the internet, saving time, trees and money because we don’t need to print off hard copies.
In addition, like many Norfolk villages, our cosy, welcoming village hall and adjacent village meadow is entirely self-financing, so having Wi-Fi access available makes it a more attractive low cost venue option for potential hirers, thus helping to cover basic running costs such as insurance and minor building repairs, ensuring the sustainability of this community resource. Local children who do not have access to the internet at home can come here, download information, pictures, video clips for school homework or their hobbies, without having to travel longer distances to a library or a friend’s house. Ensuring that we do not have a digital divide for children living in the countryside is critical if we want to ensure equality of opportunity for the next generation.
The icing on the cake for me is that our excellent Parish Clerk, who lives in a neighbouring village, will be able to work in Starston one morning a month because of the Wi-Fi hotspot. This means that residents can call in to the village hall and see her in person, as technology enables the Parish Council to provide a personal and efficient service to local residents. There is also the aspect of future proofing, as with more and more healthcare provided via the internet to save the time and cost of travel, whether it is Skype based consultations or health monitoring data uploads, local elderly people who do not have an internet connection at home have this facility in their own village.”
People in photograph – from left to right:
Michael Bartlett – Starston Jubilee Hall Chairman; Cllr Clayton Hudson, South Norfolk District Council; Peter Grimble – Starston Jubilee Hall Trustee
Starston Youth Club children; Cllr Ann Leitch – Starston Parish Council Chairman