MP announces deal with churches to boost rural broadband and mobile connections

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 February 2018

Matthew Hancock MP. Photo: Sonya Duncan

Matthew Hancock MP. Photo: Sonya Duncan

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

Church spires will be used to boost broadband and mobile connectivity in rural areas.

Churches will help boost connectivity by hosting telecommunications infrastructureChurches will help boost connectivity by hosting telecommunications infrastructure

The announcement was made by culture secretary and Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, who said the agreement with the Church of England to use spires showed medieval buildings can still help deliver 21st century services.

The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said guidance set out by both the Church and Historic England will ensure that any telecoms infrastructure does not impact on the character and architectural or historic significance of churches.

The majority of Anglican churches (65 per cent) and parishes (66pc) in England are in rural areas.

They will be used alongside other church properties and farm buildings to host telecoms infrastructure.

The Bishop of Norwich, Right Rev Graham James. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Bishop of Norwich, Right Rev Graham James. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk, said: “Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country.

“This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future, improving people’s lives by boosting connectivity in some of our hardest-to-reach areas.”

The Dioceses of Chelmsford and Norwich are already supporting programmes which use church buildings to improve connectivity in rural areas.

The Bishop of Norwich, Right Rev Graham James, said: “I welcome this agreement. It builds on what we have been seeking to do in the Diocese of Norwich since 2011 with the creation of WiSpire, a company seeking to use church towers and spires to enable wifi connectivity in communities, especially in rural locations.

“Our parish churches are a truly national network, and to use them creatively to create new forms of connectivity enhances their value for the communities they serve.”

Hamish Macleod, director of Mobile UK, said: “Mobile UK welcomes this announcement from Government and the Church of England, which emphasises the benefits of mobile connectivity to local communities.

“Where there is a need, a suitable building is available and appropriate terms can be agreed, the mobile operators will continue to extend their use of churches to increase mobile coverage and capacity, while respecting the church environment.”

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