Church spires across the UK could be used to boost broadband and wi-fi signals in rural areas following an agreement between the government and the Church of England.
There are already more than 120 examples of broadband and mobile services being delivered from parish churches across the country. These range from wireless transmitters in church spires and church towers, to aerials, satellite dishes, and more traditional fibre cables. Deals with telecoms companies could also help churches fund the expensive maintenance of historic buildings.
The agreement encourages the Church of England to use its buildings and other property to improve broadband, mobile and wi-fi connectivity. The C of E has just over 16,000 church buildings in 12,500 parishes, two thirds of which are in rural areas. Village church locations at the heart of their communities mean they are often well placed to address internet blackspots.
"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," said Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for the Department of Culture Media and Sport.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, The 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."
In 2011 the Diocese of Norwich created WiSpire, a company seeking to use church towers and spires to enable wi-fi connectivity in communities, especially in rural locations.
"Our parish churches are a truly national network, and to use them creatively to create new forms of connectivity enhances their value for the communities they serve," said the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James.
Guidance set out by both the Church and Historic England ensures that any telecoms infrastructure deployed does not impact on the character and architectural or historic significance of churches.