Council believes York can become a digital leader while TalkTalk praises local authorities for helping it carry out building work
The city of York was founded by the Romans in 71AD, after which it which it evolved into a vital trading centre, a manufacturing hub and now a major regional centre and tourist destination in the north of England.
Now the local council is convinced the city has an opportunity to develop into the digital capital of the north, powered by a city-wide fibre to the premise (FTTP) network that makes it the best connected city in Britain.
York City Council is the ‘anchor tenant’ for the CityFibre network that forms the basis of a joint-venture between the company, TalkTalk and Sky. The 1Gbps network connects public sector buildings, such as offices, libraries and schools, as well as free Wi-Fi.
Roy Grant, head of ICT at York City Council, said he was convinced York needed futureproof broadband infrastructure to help transform the city and deliver better public services. He cites education and health as but two areas that have benefited and now wants residents and businesses to take advantage too.
“I think York is the best connected city in the UK,” he boasted. “[US President] Barack Obama wants a gigabit city in every US state before he steps down. We’ve got that. Connectivity shouldn’t be a lottery.
“It’s given us a great opportunity to be a digital leader in the north.”
York is home to two universities but many students leave the city when they graduate. It is hoped that better connectivity will create jobs and also encourage the seven million tourists that visit York each year to stay a bit longer.
“Overnight, you transform people’s lives,” he said. “We want to retain people for longer.
“We need to position York differently. We’re well known for tourism and chocolate, but want to be known for other things too.
TalkTalk describes the council as the ‘fourth partner’ in the joint-venture and says the support from local authorities was one of the reasons York was chosen as the pilot for the FTTP scheme, which could be replicated elsewhere if it is a success. So far, the joint-venture has deployed 120 kilometres of fibre and connected 509 homes. 70,000GB of data has been downloaded over the network already.
“Why York? One of the main reasons was digital ambitions of the council,” said Richard Sinclair, head of ultrafast at TalkTalk. “The council shares TalkTalk’s vision that FTTP will transform.
The company says the cooperation of the council has been essential for the building work, including the laying of fibre using ‘microtrenching’.
Each house is connected via a ‘street port’ which itself is linked to a ‘home gateway’ on the exterior of the property. Although microtrenching requires less digging, it still leaves an unsightly, visible mark on pavements.
TalkTalk says the economics of fibre deployment simply wouldn’t add up if it had to repave entire pavement and the council would replace most surfaces with ten years. It argues the benefits of FTTP will last a lot longer and that the house price of many homes would actually go up once connected.
But even still, the company admits some residents are not happy about the aesthetic blemishes imposed on their pavements.
Of course TalkTalk, Sky and CityFibre can’t reach everywhere and the council is still working on the development of superfast broadband through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), which is being delivered by BT and mostly involves fibre to the cabinet (FTTC).
“Broadband is a key enabler,” concluded Grant. “I’m fiercely proud of what York was, is and can become. It’s a collective responsibility to make a difference. If not, we should be taken out and flogged.”
What do you know about fibre broadband? Take our quiz!