Norfolk High Sheriff Michael Gurney visits St Mary the Virgin Church, Gissing, after villagers secure broadband

The High Sheriff of Norfolk this month commemorated the villagers who had pooled tens of thousands of pounds to provide high-speed internet access to their area.

Michael Gurney and South Norfolk Council President Florence Ellis presented a plaque to residents of Gissing after raising more than £ 50,000 to secure the 1 GB per second broadband the village desperately needed.

During the ceremony at St Mary the Virgin Church, a large projection screen was installed on which video calls were made to residents of Lancashire, Dublin and even New Zealand to demonstrate the new high speed internet connection.

The High Sheriff of Norfolk (pictured holding the plaque, right) during his visit to the church this month. Photo: Mike Harrowven (53962446)

Parish Council President Michael Harrowven explained how the pandemic has made people increasingly dependent on poor broadband that served Gissing’s 122 homes.

“The pandemic has forced us to watch the poor internet quality in the village,” the 62-year-old said.

“People saw their internet speeds in the low single digits, and this motivated the desire for better internet facilities.”

Residents contributed £ 50,000 of their own money to fund the project, while a further £ 50,000 was raised through grants from the council and central government.

In June of last year, Internet service provider B4RN, which specializes in serving rural areas, began rolling out 1 GB high-speed fiber optic in the village.

“Everyone wanted an alternative Internet provider, so people just signed up,” added Mr Harrowven of Rectory Road. It’s a classic community project.

On December 14, 29 residents attended St Mary’s Church on Lower Street to celebrate the plaque unveiling, and 28 more connected via Zoom, using their new high-speed internet connection.

The plaque – which bears the quote “Live your best and do your best and think your best today,” by Norfolk-born sociologist Harriet Martineau – also commemorates the work of the Gissing Covid Support Group, which mobilized during the pandemic to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable residents could do their shopping.

“Like most parishes, there is an aging population here in Gissing,” added Mr Harrowven, who previously worked as an investment manager.

“There were a lot of people nervous about going shopping and leaving home, so a group of people of all ages all played different roles, taking care of different addresses and different streets.

The grandfather of three continued, “We created our own forms so that if a resident couldn’t go out, they could fill out a shopping list, and people would go out and pick up their things and deliver them to them.

“We were able to take care of the whole village and the group still goes there today.

“It changed the community and it shows that if groups of people want to make a difference, they can. “

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