What progress has been made on identifying parish churches suitable for wi-fi and broadband in rural areas?

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Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

What progress has been made on identifying parish churches suitable for wi-fi and broadband in rural areas.

Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I would certainly like to welcome Bridget Phillipson to her position and I look forward to working with her at these question sessions.

There has been a lot of interest from colleagues in this question of how to provide the internet to parts of the country that currently have poor provision. Churches play an important role in supporting community infrastructure, and the Diocese of Norwich has led the way. Since 2011, it has been the majority shareholder in WiSpire, which provides wi-fi internet signal boosters to churches across the diocese. We are in early discussions to expand that provision into the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and Ely dioceses.

 

Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

Will my right hon. Friend outline what work the Church is undertaking to assess the potential scale of this project, and how Members can identify buildings in notspot areas that could be used for wireless transmitters?

Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Yes; my hon. Friend is right. I am sure that he would like the Church in Shrewsbury to be actively involved in this. The absolute key to this is knowing where the notspots are. I met the Minister for Digital and Culture, as I think many colleagues in the House did, who has an enormous spreadsheet that shows where the gaps are, and that is now being matched to what the Church can provide. We have offered to help to create a property asset register, so that this matching process can take place, and I hope it will benefit my hon. Friend’s constituency.