Hallelujah, church spires could fix the rural internet

England turns to the church to help fix rural internet

It’s hard to imagine life without 4G in the middle of a bustling UK city, right? Well, unfortunately the same can’t be said for more rural parts of the country, with some struggling even to obtain a basic level of connectivity.

Recognising that the being connected is somewhat of a necessity, cities now teem with fibre optic cables and enviable super-fast 4G signals. In the UK, a new pact between church and state has blossomed, which could help religious hubs become the base stations of faster, more effective broadband. The National Church Institutions (NCIs) of the Church of England and the government are set to be working together to promote the use of churches and other church-owned properties as sites for digital infrastructure, improving broadband, mobile and Wi-Fi access for rural communities.

Of course, this does not mean all churches, with individual dioceses and parishes continuing to make the final call on whether it’s appropriate for the local church spire to host a new 4G mini-mast or not. The NCIs will be responsible for educating decision makers on the benefits better connectivity brings to the community, and how it can provide new ways for the church to communicate with its parishioners. But with a new spire could come other promising benefits to rural churches, such as income or an agreement to share the cost of maintaining the buildings that host the infrastructure. The NCIs will also work with providers to draw up a sort of standard contract that should help take some of the administrative strain off the individual parishes.

The government has said it will support the NCIs throughout this process, as well as encourage providers to take advantage of such opportunities. While this is a broad initiative, some dioceses had the same bright idea many years ago. As it stands, however, only around 120 churches play host to broadband and mobile infrastructure. In all, the Church of England has over 16,000 buildings in 12,500 parishes, with nearly two-thirds of those situated in rural areas, so there are still plenty of spires to populate.


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