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The High Sheriff of Norfolk, Michael Gurney, pays visit to St Mary the Virgin Church, Gissing, after villagers secure high-speed broadband

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

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

During the ceremony at St Mary the Virgin Church, a large projector screen was set up where video calls were made to people in 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. Picture: Mike Harrowven (53962446)
The High Sheriff of Norfolk (pictured holding the plaque, right) during his visit to the Church this month. Picture: Mike Harrowven (53962446)

Parish council chairman Michael Harrowven explained how the pandemic had left people increasingly reliant on the poor broadband that serviced the 122 homes in Gissing.

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

“People were seeing their internet speeds in the low single digits, and it drove the desire to have better internet facilities.”

Residents put up £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 last year, internet provider B4RN, which specialises in servicing rural areas, began rolling out the 1GB fibre optic broadband to the village.

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

On December 14, 29 residents attended St Mary’s Church, in Lower Street, to celebrate the unveiling of the plaque, with a further 28 dialling in via Zoom, using their new high-speed internet connection.

The plaque – which bears the quote ‘Live your best and act your best and think your best today’, from Norfolk-born sociologist Harriet Martineau – also commemorates the work of the Gissing Covid Support Group, which mobilised during the pandemic to make sure elderly and vulnerable residents could get their groceries.

“Like most parishes, there’s an ageing population here in Gissing,” added Mr Harrowven, who used to work as an investment director.

“There was a lot of people nervous about going shopping and leaving the house, so a group of people of all ages all put in different roles, looking after different addresses and different streets.

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

“We were able to look after the whole village and the group is still going to this day.

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

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