Church Commissioner Written Answers – buildings and rural wi-fi / broadband

On 13th March 2018 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered a written question from Daniel Kawczynski MP about wi-fi and broadband in rural areas:

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham): To ask the Honourable Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what plans the Church of England has to make its buildings available for broadcasting (a) Wi-Fi and (b) broadband signal to improve connectivity in rural areas; and if she will make a statement.

Dame Caroline Spelman: The Church of England recently signed an Accord with Her Majesty’s Government to enable churches to improve broadband and mobile connectivity, particularly in rural areas. The Accord sets out how the Government and the Church can collaborate to help achieve this. Specifically, companies are being invited to tender to provide connectivity under a framework agreement with rural parish churches. The intention of the Accord is to indicate to Church Chancellors, Diocesan Advisory Committees and Local Planning Departments that there is no institutional barrier to this technology being used to promote connectivity in a manner appropriate for the community.

Currently 86.4% of households in the Shrewsbury and Atcham constituency can access superfast speeds – up from 5% in 2011. Church buildings and property may be a good way to reach the last 13.6% of the constituency.

The Church of England is in the process setting up a working group with interested dioceses to identify areas where further work or guidance may be required to support the Accord. Discussions are also ongoing with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to establish where the barriers are to progress this project further.