By: MarkJ - 20 December, 2011 (1:25 PM)
fibre_optic_broadband_internet_cable.jpgUK DCMS internet copyrightThe UK governments Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has today published new details and bidding guidance in support of their £100m (Urban Broadband Fund) commitment to improve superfast broadband services in up to ten UK cities. The update also includes a shortlist of 10 cities that can bid; although only a maximum of 6 more will be selected.

The DCMS Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, said:

"The internet is now a fundamental part of our economy. We must ensure the UK has a broadband network fit for the digital age.

Transforming communities into super-connected cities will enable them to compete with the world’s top digital cities.

It will help them attract new jobs and new investment and make the UK a place where digital businesses look to come. It will help our creative industries and high-tech companies grow while making the UK even more attractive to overseas firms.

New businesses are being set up because of the internet while many others are using the internet to grow. We are determined to ensure the UK has the digital infrastructure we need to drive growth."

The Urban Broadband Fund (UBF) aims to deliver "ultrafast" fibre optic based 80-100Mbps+ (Megabits per second) broadband services to as many as ten UK "super-connected cities" over the next three years; four have already been selected (the main capitals).
Urban Broadband Fund Cities (Approved)
* Edinburgh
* Belfast
* Cardiff
* London

Urban Broadband Fund Cities (Shortlist)
* Birmingham
* Bradford
* Bristol
* Glasgow
* Leeds
* Liverpool
* Newcastle
* Nottingham
* Manchester
* Sheffield
The UBF, which was first announced in November 2011 (here), has of course not been without its detractors. Critics have questioned both the size of the fund (some argue that £100m won't be enough) and the direction of funding, with many wondering why the money is being spent on urban areas where private sector investment should already cover.

The DCMS has thus been careful to point out that its £100m will only be "used to provide coverage in areas where BT and Virgin Media will not go", or services "beyond what the market will provide". The proposals also include plans for city-wide high-speed mobile connectivity and bidding cities will be expected to contribute to the cost by providing additional investment or using public assets.

Each city, including the pre-approved capitals, will also need to produce a plan detailing their proposals. This must show how the 'super-connected' status will drive growth with a particular focus on SMEs and strategic employment zones.

A deadline of 13th February 2012 has been set for the first draft proposals and successful cities should then be announced as part of the 2012 UK Budget in March next year. Money allocations will then be revealed in July 2012.
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Comments: 7

asa logoCurious
Posted: 20 December, 2011 - 4:16 PM
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At a time when local governments are having to tighten purse strings by cutting services/jobs, I'm sorry, but I have to say this is not as important as keeping people/jobs/services running. What are we coming to where it's more important to have faster internet speeds other than jobs and services? Am I crazy here?
asa logoMarkJ
Posted: 20 December, 2011 - 4:57 PM
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To play devil's advocate, the evidence is fairly strong now that broadband is one of the few areas where investing in better infrastructure has proven to provide for a noticeable GDP boost and thus jobs. Not that I'm saying putting public money into urban broadband is an ideal solution but, generally speaking, good internet = better business output.
asa logoBob
Posted: 20 December, 2011 - 5:16 PM
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I don't really understand the governments logic as these areas are already well served by HS Broadband.

Rather than as well spend money on Mobile High Speed Broadband it ought to be spent on helping to provide HS speed broadband to areas that cannot get it.

I seriously cannot belive that HS Broadband cannot be fully rolled out to 99.8% of these cities on a commercial basis

It sounds as if this money will just end up with BT
asa logowirelesspacman
Posted: 20 December, 2011 - 5:21 PM
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I have to agree with Bob. This to me sounds almost like a blatant attempt by our wonderful government to bung yet another 100m into BT's coffers.
asa logoDeduction
Posted: 20 December, 2011 - 5:43 PM
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Not only agree with what wirelesspacman and bob say but isnt BT meant to be enabling most exchanges in the likes of London anyway?
asa logodragoneast
Posted: 20 December, 2011 - 10:21 PM
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Mark J: "the evidence is fairly strong now that broadband is one of the few areas where investing in better infrastructure has proven to provide for a noticeable GDP boost and thus jobs". Roads, airports even, affordable housing, rail, energy, healthcare, education et all of less economic benefit then? And of course, the City.

What evidence: I read and hear lots of assertion, a veritable cacophony, no less; but evidence? Yes there is retail data, but much of that is benefiting the Far Eastern economies, and I suppose the creative industries (though some of your reports would have us believe that much of that activity is illegal). It's helpful no doubt, but not a magic wand.
asa logoMarkJ
Posted: 21 December, 2011 - 5:38 AM
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The OECD and ITU have both done some independent and quite detailed studies that might be worth checking out, which is aside from the retail focused ones.

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