Wi-Fi in Village Halls

Discover how we supported Connecting Cambridgeshire to roll out free CambWifi to village halls.

About the project

Funder

Connecting Cambridgeshire, the digital connectivity programme for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, funded this work.

Why is this needed?

Digital connectivity is vital to support healthy, thriving communities, and village halls play an important role in keeping everyone connected, helping to combat loneliness and supporting the local economy. Sadly, a large number of Cambridgeshire village halls had no broadband and were put off by the potential costs of installation, which are often higher in rural areas where getting connected can be more challenging.

The Connecting Cambridgeshire digital connectivity programme, led by Cambridgeshire County Council, secured a Government grant to support health and well-being and wanted to use this to roll out free public access wi-fi to a number of village halls. The grant funding would cover installation of a broadband connection and wireless access points, providing secure and filtered wi-fi access to the internet, via the existing free CambWifi network.

Connecting Cambridgeshire commissioned Cambridgeshire ACRE to assess demand for public access wi-fi to support community or health-related activities. A survey was devised and sent to 250 community buildings across Cambridgeshire. Further promotion and encouragement was given to ensure a response was gained from every building. The survey results, together with public health criteria and technical costings, were then used to identify the most eligible communities that could be funded within the limited budget.

Public access wi-fi was rolled out to 36 village halls in the County enabling them to support community activities, help people keep in touch, and improve rural connectivity.

Whilst COVID-19 produced a number of challenges for village halls, those with free wi-fi found it immensely useful when considering re-opening, for example, to take contactless card payments and register users’ contact details for ‘test and trace’ purposes. Free wi-fi has also been used to support participation in Parish Council meetings via Zoom, playgroups and childcare activities, virtual community quiz nights and online challenges for young people.

How can you get involved?

At this time, Connecting Cambridgeshire has no more grant funding available to support the installation of free wi-fi into village halls. Cambridgeshire ACRE is always able to provide advice and support to village halls with broadband and wi-fi issues.

What impact has our work had?

Testimony

Doddington Village Hall was one of those who received a wi-fi installation grant. Hall Committee member Darren Adams, who oversees bookings, said: “We viewed it as very important to get going again for the community and the small businesses who use the hall, to bring some normality into people’s lives.

“Free CambWifi is already making a difference because it can be used for contactless payments and track and trace records. Our slimmers’ sessions are back and we also looking into running virtual dance classes with Zoom link to the tutors.”

Slimming World consultant Dawn Breacher, is delighted she can use the free CambWifi at Doddington Village Hall to sign in members for socially-distanced weigh-in slots, take online payments and update contact details. She said: “The mobile signal is not very good, so having the wi-fi saves me having to go outside to get a connection!

“We’ve kept in touch via Zoom during the lockdown, but a lot of members prefer to come along each week, especially if they don’t get out much, as it helps them to lose weight while having a laugh.”

Useful links

Who can I talk to about this work?