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Super Connected Cities UK: £150m Urban Broadband Fund to boost business and employment by 2015

What is the Super-Connected Cities programme?

Latest news for the UK Super-Connected Cities programmeThe government has earmarked the £150 million Urban Broadband Fund for 22 cities in the UK which have demonstrated a demand for extra funds to build next-generation broadband services.

The target is to provide 30Mbps broadband and city-wide high speed mobile connectivity to 90 per cent of residents and businesses by Summer 2015, with a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and strategic employment zones to support economic growth.

Super-connected cities UK: £150m Urban Broadband Fund to boost business and employment by 2015
Manchester is one of 22 UK cities getting a broadband boost

The first £100m was allocated in the Spring 2012 Budget, going to Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.

In the second round, Aberdeen, Brighton & Hove, Cambridge, Coventry, Derby, Derry/Londonderry, Newport, Oxford, Perth, Portsmouth, Salford, and York were given the go-ahead to share the remaining £50m in February 2013.

Their plans are currently being assessed by the government, with procurement expected to start in Summer 2013. 

Latest news for the UK’s Super-Connected Cities 

Brighton, Aberdeen and Newport in line for Urban Broadband Funding

Today in the Autumn Statement the Government announced the second wave of UK cities which will eligible to apply for money from the Urban Broadband Fund.

In England, Brighton and Hove, Cambridge, Coventry, Derby, Oxford, Portsmouth, Salford, and York will be able to apply for UBF money as will Aberdeen and Perth in Scotland.

Super-connected cities UK: Brighton, Aberdeen and Newport in line for Urban Broadband Funding

Newport in Wales can also apply for funding as can Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

These cities will be able to draw from a £50 million pot of cash that was announced earlier this year in the Budget.

December 5, 2012

Virgin Media wants the Urban Broadband Fund rules rewritten

Virgin Media wants the Urban Broadband Fund (UBF) rules rewritten in order to better serve unconnected cities.

The £150 million UBF war chest was set up to provide cash for councils looking to plug isolated ‘not spots’ in their cities. Not spots as per the UBF rules are defined as an urban area with speeds lower than 2Mbps.

Virgin Media however is claiming that it needs more information on the not spots in order to take on any project funded with UBF cash. Specifically, Virgin Media is after the numbers of houses living in a not spot and proof that there is a demand for superfast broadband to make sure it’s viable from a business perspective.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said to City AM: “Public funds should be focused on where they’re needed most, investing in skills, access and training to drive usage and enabling small businesses to take full advantage of existing next generation networks… Super Connected Cities funding needs a major overhaul if the Government is to help drive small business growth and unlock the promised revenue and productivity benefits.”

Previously Virgin Media criticised plans to connect areas of Birmingham which it claims were based on “inaccurate and misleading information which could waste public money,” prior to launching a legal challenge to the European Commission.

Currently, the UBF is available in the UK’s four regional capitals and Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle. The next round of cities eligible for UBF money are to be announced on Wednesday December 5th on the Autumn Budget Statement.

December 3, 2012

BT and Virgin challenge Birminghams super-connected cities state aid

Birmingham Jewellery Quarter by ell brown/FlickrBT and Virgin Media claim they’re already supplying superfast broadband in areas where Birmingham City Council is planning to spend £10m on new networks. 

 

They’ve launched a legal challenge to the European Commission’s green light for the new networks, which was based on the council’s claim that it would help areas without connections at over 100Mbps.

Virgin Media told Recombu Digital that its up-to-120Mbps superfast network already covers 94 per cent of Birmingham, including the Digbeth, Eastside and Jewellery Quarter areas targeted by the Urban Broadband Fund.

Virgin Media said: “We fully support the Urban Broadband Fund and government ambitions to bring superfast broadband to areas not currently served by existing fibre networks.

“It’s disappointing that Birmingham City Council has put forward a scheme which is not in the interests of local people and we believe, as a result, the European Commission has made a decision based on inaccurate and misleading information which could waste public money.”

BT said it was unable to reveal any more information about its plans for 100Mbps-plus networks in Birmingham because the legal case is active.

A BT spokesperson added: “We have made an application to annul the Commission’s decision. This is an unusual step for us to take but we believe the decision was substantially flawed. It would have discouraged commercial investment in high speed networks at precisely the time when such investment is required.

“It would also have set a dangerous precedent. We hope an alternative solution can be found as soon as possible so that companies such as BT can invest further in Britain’s cities.”

Image Credit: Flickr user ell brown

October 22, 2012

Portsmouth hunts partners to pimp superfast broadband plan

HMS Victory in Portsmouth by Leshaines123/FlickrPortsmouth City Council is looking for partners to help it provide up-to-100Mbps fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) for every home and business by the end of 2014.

The city’s plan will also supply 300Mbps or better fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) targeted at business areas and new developments.

The final strand will be a city-wide wireless broadband network offering ‘full internet access’ for residents, schools, businesses, visitors and council staff.

Portsmouth’s fibre broadband tender notice adds: “The plan requires an open access, wholesale platform across the city offering both fibre-based and wireless solutions, to enable competitive retail service provision to all Portsmouth residents and to manage the technology risk between the evolving fibre-based and interim solutions.”

Portsmouth is among six towns competing for the last £50m of the UK’s Super-Connected Cities funds, and private partners will be expected to match public funds.

ISPs and infrastructure providers have until October 12 to apply for an information pack, with up to six companies expected to receive invitations to an event discussing further details in late October.

Image credit: Flickr user Leshaines123

October 11, 2012

Manchester aims to join world’s top 20 digital cities

Manchester is looking for companies to execute its multi-million Pound bid to become one of the world’s top 20 digital cities by 2020.

The Urban Broadband Fund project will provide Superfast Broadband (up to 100Mbps) across the whole of Greater Manchester and Ultrafast Broadband (up to 1Gbps) to the cities of Manchester and Salford.

It will also ensure a minimum speed of 2Mbps in areas not on the superfast broadband roadmaps of BT, Virgin or another broadband provider.Stormy Manchester by Casa No 7 on Flickr

Focus areas include key employment and business areas in the cities, and multiple occupancy business and residential buildings, particularly social housing.

The project is intended to start on April 1, 2013, and complete by the end of June 2015. Details are being hosted at The-Chest.org.uk, and is open to enquiries until October 18, 2012.  

Image Credit: Casa No 7 

 

September 13, 2012

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