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Churches to Help Spread Wireless Broadband into Rural England

Sunday, February 18th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 1,330
church digital broadband uk

The UK Government has reached a new accord with the National Church Institutions (NCIs) of the Church of England, which should make it easier for churches to be used in order to help distribute faster wireless broadband and WiFi services across rural communities.

Churches tend to be one of the highest structures in rural communities and as such their towers (or spires) can be very useful when adopted to act as a distribution point for a local Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), Mobile Broadband or WiFi network. The idea of using churches in this way is of course nothing new and some ISPs, such as WiSpire in Norfolk (they’ve partnered with the Dioceses of Norwich), have been doing it for a long time.

Last year the UK government signalled that they were keen to work with the Church of England (here) in order to encourage support for similar deployments across other parts of the country (there are about 16,000 churches across the whole of England) and today’s accord would appear to be the result. There is also the possibility that similar accords could be made with other faith communities that have similar estates.

Crucially the new guidance will ensure that any telecoms infrastructure deployed does not impact on the character and architectural or historic significance of churches. The Government has also pledged to provide advice for parishes and dioceses to enable them to “consider supporting digital connectivity and to develop the necessary skills for digital infrastructure projects“.

Matt Hancock MP, DCMS Secretary of State, 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.”

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.”

We should point out that the accord itself covers “all types of mobile and broadband technologies” and churches will be free to explore different options to meet the needs of their communities. Wireless networks are the ones most likely to benefit, although the government suggests that Satellite and more traditional fibre optic cables could also have a role to play (they probably mean fibre fed wireless).

The news is good, although we suspect that it won’t make a huge difference to the overall deployment picture. Generally churches have rarely ever been considered a big obstacle to the rollout of new broadband networks. Indeed there are already more than 120 cases of broadband and mobile services being delivered from parish churches across the country. Getting the capacity to the church in the first place is also an issue.

Nevertheless this is a useful improvement and clarification for ISPs. Related guidance on the installation of telecoms equipment in churches can be found HERE and HERE. Now let’s take a moment to pray for better rural broadband.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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12 Responses
  1. baby_frogmella

    Amen!

  2. Simon

    This is good – There is a church in Stone which hosts the kit for a wireless 1Gbps service. – as covered on here but I forget the name of the ISP

  3. Guy Cashmore

    It’s a nice idea, but totally dependent on getting sufficient backhaul to the church, which is likely to be just as outrageously priced as any Community Fibre Partnership scheme seems to be..

    • Andrew

      Agreed – but in most cases it is a wireless link so as long as LOS to another location it is fine. The major issue is the time it takes to get planning (in the churches language DAC) approval which holds things up. Not clear that this agreement will do anything about that

    • Fastman

      the problem is you are a long way from the network as there are very few of you there so that means it going to be expensive for anyone to deploy anything

      interesting article in the daily mail — I assume that is you

  4. occasionally factual

    Wasn’t Jesus against the merchants in the churches? I’m sure there was something in his life story about casting out the money makers from the temple.
    Seems that the Church isn’t really into following Jesus’s example. Unless the Church is doing this for free?

    • Andrew

      I think you’re missing the point. In our experience the churches aren’t looking to make money but rather help their community and get a connection for themselves. A small commission might be possible but it is generally minimal.

      The bible story is all about attitude and motive. God is not anti money, work or profit.

      Finally – churches have historically been the location where people got information (first places for weather reports – weather vanes; first for time – clocks), so in the digital age why not where you get your broadband!

    • occasionally factual

      “God isn’t anti money, profit or work.”

      You obviously know her personally to say that 🙂

      And the Church isn’t God, it is a money making exercise for a few from the many. And extremely lucrative too (CoE is a major landowner and institutional investor [with a dubious investment record too given their alleged following of the Good Book ™])

      Of course, the existence of God is also very subjective.

      So not a fan of said institution to be fair.

    • occasionally factual

      And are these nice Grade 1 listed buildings (most will be) going to be suitably protected as befits buildings of national importance?
      And that includes the decommissioning costs when either the company goes bankrupt or a newer better alternative appears?
      I had an aerial left on my property when a wireless phone company went bust and had to pay myself for the removal and disposal of said equipment.

    • Andrew

      Ah “money making exercise” might have been true centuries ago but you’d be hard pressed to find individuals in most religions (sects excluded) living in luxury these days. Agree about the land ownership.

      I’ve not seen the detail of the what has been agreed, but every instance of using a church that we and others have had requires stringent rules on what can be done to the actual building with principle of “must be able to undo” and no/minimal damage to stonework. So any bolts need to go in the mortar joints and a lot of installations are actually free standing. But yes, that is what the planning rules are for.

      Tell me of any ISP who comes and removes their equipment/wires/dish?

    • Mike

      Please do not encourage him Andrew.

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