UK to install telecommunications equipment on rural churches
Wed 21 Feb 2018
A new agreement between Church of England and the UK Digital Secretary allows the government to install telecommunications equipment on church spires throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to improve broadband connectivity in rural areas.
Equipment may include wireless transmitters, satellite dishes or aerials, depending on the best method determined to boost connectivity for the surrounding area, and the needs of the community.
The accord allows each church to make its own decision regarding the installation of equipment, but the Church of England is actively encouraging parishes to consider the benefits of improved broadband for congregations where connectivity is currently sub-par.
The program, however, emphasizes that any of the infrastructure deployed must not impact the “character and architectural or historic significance of churches.”
These benefits include improved social interactions and better access to online public services, as well as support for local businesses, and improved access to skills and training.
Under the agreement, the government will work with mobile and broadband companies to encourage investment in improved connectivity, and facilitate discussions to that end. The government will also advise the National Church Institutions (NCIs) and provide resources to support the church’s role in individual agreements.
NCIs, for their part, will develop dioceses and parishes to support the use of church property for connectivity improvements, as well as cooperating with mobile and broadband operators to establish a standard contract to use in development. The Media Bishops Group will act as a liaison between NCIs and dioceses to resolve any issues that may arise as to policy.
Enlisting church properties to help boost broadband connectivity has already had a successful pilot program in Norwich and Chelmsford, where over 100 churches have had equipment installed on their properties.
The new agreement is intended to expand this program to more of the nation’s 16,000 churches, to help remedy the lack of connectivity that the Rt. Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, said was “a very serious impoverishment of people’s lives.”
He went on to note, “We’ve got an awful lot of buildings with towers and spires so it seemed a very practical way in which we could be serving our communities.”