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Does the City of Derry Deserve its UK UltraFast Broadband Funding Boost

Friday, Dec 7th, 2012 (8:20 am) - Score 898

This week the UK government awarded £50m to help twelve “smaller cities” expand the coverage of “ultra-fast” broadband (80-100Mbps+) and “high speed” public wifi services into neglected areas. But some of the cities, such as Derry in Northern Ireland and Portsmouth in England, already have near perfect availability of “superfast” connectivity.

According to Ofcom’s latest data, the city of Derry (Londonderry) has the highest availability of superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services in the entire United Kingdom with a score of 99.1%. It was also one of the first to see all of its street cabinets upgraded to support BT’s up to 80Mbps FTTC technology, while Virgin Media’s up to 120Mbps cable platform also has a strong presence.

Derry also has one of the highest superfast broadband take-up rates in the UK (13.90%), although it’s interesting to note that the city’s overall broadband adoption (65.80%) is a bit lower than the UK average of 71% and sadly 12.7% still receive speeds of less than 2Mbps.

Two other cities on the government’s final list, Brighton and Hove and Portsmouth, also have similarly strong levels of superfast broadband availability and take-up. We have no doubt that some cities do have neglected areas, which would benefit from this new investment, yet it appears to be deeply questionable whether those that have been selected actually deserve to be there. The three we mention have also effectively already met the government’s wider 90% availability target.

The council’s Super-Connected Derry strategy states: “Securing funding will make us one of Europe’s most digitally connected cities with city-wide access speeds of at least 80Mbps, with businesses availing of 100Mbps.” On the surface Derry already appears able to meet this goal and next year’s launch of FTTP-On-Demand (available on all FTTC lines) will certainly help, so why the need for extra funding when other cities could be said to have a greater need? Perhaps the council’s reaction to this week’s news can tell us.

Cllr Kevin Campbell, Mayor of Derry, said:

We are delighted that Derry City Council’s bid has been successful. We are confident that we will now be able to support the development of ultrafast broadband networks within a number of key economic development zones across the City (Digital Zones) and put in place the infrastructure required to provide fibre to the premises (FTTP) to make them capable of supporting ultrafast services at affordable prices.”

Sharon O’Connor, Derry City Council Town Clerk, also mentioned that the new investment would allow the town to extend its existing wireless city network and enhance current network capacity. She, like Campbell above, then suggested that the funding could be used to help small and medium sized enterprises with their connection costs (subsidy). We found a similar position in the other two cities mentioned.

Our BT and Virgin Media sources similarly speculated that the money was likely to be used for demand stimulation among businesses, as well as boosting wireless services and existing service speeds. Ultimately we will have to wait to see precisely how much money Derry will receive because it might not represent a huge slice of the pie. On the other hand £50m isn’t a lot of money to begin with.

It’s certainly true that take-up is generally low, although comparatively speaking the three cities we mention actually have some of the highest take-up rates in the whole of the UK. Like it or not we can’t help but feel that the funding for cities like Derry, Brighton and Hove and Portsmouth would be better spent on infrastructure in cities with a greater need or even rural areas.

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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