Telecommunications Code 2017 - mobile and broadband connectivity
In 2018 the National Church Institutions signed an agreement with Government to encourage churches to consider how their buildings could contribute to achieving national targets for mobile and broadband connectivity. Subsequent to that agreement a new legal framework relating to all telecoms installations was introduced – the Electronic Communications Code. This fundamentally changed the rights and obligations of mobile network operators, giving them greater legal powers to position equipment where it was needed to address connectivity issues, and requiring owners of public buildings to work with the operators in a reasonable way. The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act 2022 further strengthens operators' rights.
For these purposes churches are considered public buildings and many have hosted mobile technology over the past 25 years.
However, the demands of the new Code are complex, with legal ramifications. To ensure that parishes are not left struggling to deal with this, after agreeing in 2019 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cornerstone (a Mobile Network Operator representing Vodafone and Telefonica (O2)), in October 2022 Parish Buying and NET signed a further MoU, this time with EE and Hutchison 3G UK Ltd ("Three"). This MoU and the associated licence agreements, is substantially the same as the earlier one. This means that all four UK networks have signed an MoU covering Church of England churches. This MoU sets out the terms, the rates, and a standard process for entering into a new telecoms agreement under the Electronic Communications Code 2017, as amended by the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act 2022.
The Church of England believes that these terms and rates represent good value for church sites, protect their interests, and comply with ecclesiastical law.
Using an existing phone-line to install a WiFi router will be relatively simple, but most other connectivity proposals will be more complicated and will probably require a faculty, particularly if there is any associated structural work.
Your starting point, where you can find general guidance on issues concerning mobile infrastructure - reasons for getting connected, available solutions, legal considerations and possible grants/funding etc, is here: https://www.churchofengland.org/connectivity
In the legal considerations section ChurchCare have set out:
- the step-by-step process for obtaining a faculty for a wireless broadband or telecoms installation in your church building, and
- what you should consider when drawing up a licence agreement. A template licence agreement with NET Coverage Solutions is in place for mobile-network installations.
The Church of England strongly recommends that you use the standard contract framework arrangement and the Memorandum which have been put in place.
For further guidance consult Network Coverage Solutions
For guidance on obtaining planning permission, please see the note from Historic England (below).
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) also has some useful guidance which you can find HERE
[Page updated 30th March 2023]