The UK government and the Church of England have formed a partnership to use the Church’s buildings and other properties to “improve broadband, mobile, and Wi-Fi connectivity for local communities.” According to a statement from the government, this would involve placing wireless transmitters in church spires and towers as well as installing aerials, satellite dishes, and fiber cables in church buildings. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport says that there are more than 120 cases of broadband and mobile services already being delivered from parish churches across the UK.
The government hopes that the accord will encourage more parishes to consider using church properties to aid digital infrastructure. The Chelmsford and Norwich dioceses already have support programs that underpin this incentive.
“Our work has significantly improved rural access to high-speed broadband,” said Rev. Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford in a statement. “Encouraging churches to improve connectivity will help tackle two of the biggest issues rural areas face - isolation and sustainability.”
The department noted that 65 percent of Anglican churches and 66 percent of parishes in England are in rural areas, and their locations are well-placed to address connectivity and coverage problems.
Under guidance rules, any telecommunications infrastructure installed can’t impact the character and architectural / historic significance of the church buildings. The department notes that similar accords could be made with other faith communities, too. The UK has previously announced that homes and businesses will have a legal right to high-speed broadband of at least 10 Mbps by 2020.