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UPD Budget 2012 Confirm Final 10 UK Cities for £100m Ultrafast Broadband Fund

Wednesday, Mar 21st, 2012 (1:33 pm) - Score 1,411

The UK governments Chancellor, George Osborne MP, has this afternoon presented his annual Budget 2012 announcement to the House of Commons (Parliament) and confirmed which 10 cities can now expect to get “ultrafast” broadband ISP services and “high speed public wifi” through the £100m Urban Broadband Fund (UBF). A further £50m has today also been allocated for a second wave of “smaller cities“.

The “super-connected cities” fund, which was announced as part of the governments £30bn National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) last November 2011 (here), aims to make “ultrafast” fibre optic based 80-100Mbps+ (Megabits per second) broadband ISP services available across each of the 10 largest cities listed below (including the UK’s four main capital cities) by 2015.

The UK Chancellor, George Osborne, said:

To be Europe’s technology centre we also need the best technology infrastructure. Two years ago Britain had some of the slowest broadband speeds in Europe; today our plans will deliver some of the fastest – with 90 per cent of the population having access to superfast broadband, and improved mobile phone coverage for rural areas and along key roads across the UK.

But we should not be complacent by saying it is enough to be the best in Europe when countries like Korea and Singapore do even better. So today we’re funding ultra fast broadband and wifi in ten of the UK’s largest cities [listed below].

My HF for Brighton Kempton asked me to help small cities too – no doubt with his own city in mind. I agree. £50m will be available for smaller cities too.

The fastest digital speeds in the world available in our cities, with the most connected countryside in Europe – and the most creative digital content anywhere. That’s what a modern industrial policy looks like.”

Crucially the money will only work to upgrade broadband (fixed line and “city-wide” mobile) “coverage in areas where BT and Virgin Media will not go” or services “beyond what the [Private Sector] will provide“. But many continue to question why public money is needed in dense urban areas where the case for private sector investment should be significantly easier to make.

The Final 10 Urban Broadband Fund Cities (Potential Funding Range)
* Edinburgh – Capital of Scotland (£8m-£11m)
* Belfast – Capital of Northern Ireland (£6m-£13.7m)
* Cardiff – Capital of Wales (£7m-£12m)
* London – Capital of England (£10m-£25m)

* Birmingham (£7m-£10m)
* Bradford (£10m-£14.6m shared with Leeds / joint bid)
* Bristol (£4.2m-£12m)
* Leeds (£10m-£14.6m shared with Bradford / joint bid)
* Newcastle (£4m-£6m)
* Manchester (£12m)

Sadly the other short listed cities of Sheffield, Nottingham, Liverpool and Glasgow were not chosen. In fairness it’s often overlooked that large sections of our major cities, such as significant chunks of London’s South East corner, can and do suffer from poor broadband connectivity and sub-2Mbps speeds.

Dana Pressman-Tobak, Managing Director of Urban ISP Hyperoptic, commented:

There are big questions to be asked following the Chancellor superfast broadband city proposals. It’s clear that there is a need to improve broadband speed and quality for both consumers and businesses, especially in light of recent reports that the UK’s economy is evermore relying on eCommerce; the UK currently ranks number one in all G20 nations in terms of the amount the internet contributes to its GDP.

But in order to compete in a global broadband arena the government needs to take a long term view and focus on encouraging broadband providers to adopt fibre-to-the-building models in cities. Anything less is not ideal. Currently providers are taking their time adopting this approach, because they don’t want to cannibalise their customer base and the technology is not compatible with their legacy network.

Hyperoptic, as the first broadband provider to make 1 Gig happen in the UK, is already rolling out fibre-to-the-building across London and giving customers hyper-fast speeds. Such is the strength of the commercial case, Hyperoptic will be announcing our national roll out strategy to other cities later this year. If the Government has £100 million to spare then we would advise that it puts the funds towards rural broadband projects, where the commercial case is far weaker.”

The National Infrastructure Plan claimed that “the age of some networks and the dense pattern of urban development in the UK combine to pose challenges,” but at no point did it provide an adequate explanation for why the private sector had failed to resolve this in areas where there is usually no shortage of customers.

Separately the extra £50m that has today been allocated for broadband in smaller cities remains somewhat of a grey area and, after having skipped through the official documentation, we’re none the wiser. It only receives the vaguest of mentions. We did find that the money for it will come from the 2013-2014 tax year.

UPDATE 2:20pm

Added the government’s minimum to maximum (range of possible awards) funding for each city above.

Further details, including for the governments £150m Mobile infrastructure plan, can be found here:

http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/news_stories/8931.aspx

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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