Church spires across the UK may soon be equipped with transmitters to boost mobile and broadband coverage in rural blackspots, the government has revealed.
Matt Hancock, the digital and culture secretary, said yesterday that the partnership with the Church of England would improve connectivity in some of the “hardest-to-reach” areas.
With nearly two thirds of Anglican churches located in rural communities, it is hoped the agreement could help deliver the government’s target of establishing “good quality” mobile connectivity across the country by 2022.
“Churches are central features and valued assets for local communities up and down the country,” said Hancock. “This agreement with the Church of England will mean that even a 15th century building can help make Britain fit for the future.”
Representatives of fixed and mobile operators met with Hancock, Lord Gardiner, the minister for rural affairs and biosecurity, and bishops at a roundtable in December. But it is not yet clear how the commercial arrangement between operators and the Church will work.
There are currently 120 parish churches delivering improved digital connectivity, but a total of more than 16,000 church buildings across the country. Existing applications include wireless transmitters in spires and towers, as well as aerials, satellites and fibre cables.
Guidance from the Church and Historic England stipulates that any new telecoms infrastructure must not affect the “character and architectural or historic significance of churches”.
The government said similar agreements with other faith communities may follow.