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The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has announced that church spires across the UK will be used to boost digital connectivity in rural areas.
Signed by the the National Church Institutions (NCIs) of the Church of England, the accord advises the Church of England to use its buildings, which are often in the heart of rural communities, to improve broadband, mobile and Wi-Fi connectivity for local regions.
Alongside other church properties and farm buildings, the move will help the government provide good quality mobile connectivity or people where they live, work and travel.
Digital Minister 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 Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, 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.
“Many new forms of technology are available to improve internet access in rural areas and I hope that this partnership between the Church of England and the government will help rural churches consider how they can be part of the solution. I know that many churches already help people access the internet and provide digital skills training, and this Accord is a natural extension of great work already occurring.”