Rural communities could soon be thanking the Almighty for improved digital connectivity following a pact between the Government and the Church of England to use buildings and other property to improve broadband, mobile and WiFi connectivity.
The accord, signed by the National Church Institutions of the Church of England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) encourages the C of E to host digital infrastructure to help to deliver the Government’s commitment for everyone to get good quality mobile connectivity where they live, work and travel.
Some 65% of Anglican churches and 66% of parishes in England are in rural areas and their locations at the heart of their communities mean they are often well placed to address connectivity and coverage problems.
DCMS Secretary of State Matt Hancock 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. It is hoped the accord will be instrumental in encouraging more local dioceses and parishes to positively consider how they can use their property in this way.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said: “We know that rural churches in particular have always served as a hub for their communities. Encouraging churches to improve connectivity will help tackle two of the biggest issues rural areas face – isolation and sustainability.
“The Diocese of Chelmsford has been pioneering this approach with County Broadband since 2013. Our work has significantly improved rural access to high-speed broadband.”
DCMS said there is the possibility that similar accords could be made with other faith communities that have similar estates.
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