Government Opens ‘Super-Connected Cities’ Competition


Ten cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow, are eligible to compete for high-speed broadband funding, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport

The government has announced a list of 10 cities that are eligible to compete for a share of £100m of funding to build out high-speed broadband networks.

Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield will be able to submit proposals for how they would use the funding to build a high-speed urban network that will support economic growth, the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport said on Tuesday.

Internet is ‘fundamental’

“The internet is now a fundamental part of our economy,” said culture secretary Jeremy Hunt in a statement. “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.”

Six of the 10 cities will be selected to recieve funding, with the winners to be announced in the March Budget.

The competing cities should include mobile broadband in their proposals, and must come up with funding of their own as part of the plan, the government said.

The deadline for proposals is 13 February 2012, with guidance available from the department’s website.

Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London will automatically get a share of the funding, which is intended to support the roll-out of broadband speeds of up to 100 Mbps. The government has said it wants the UK to have Europe’s fastest broadband network by 2015.

Chancellor George Osborne announced the £100m funding boost in the Autumn Statement.

Urban funding

“See what countries like China or Brazil are building, and you’ll also see why we risk falling behind the rest of the world,” said Osborne at the time. “We will help bring world-leading, superfast broadband and Wi-Fi connections to ten of them – including the capitals of all four nations.”

Critics had hoped that the government would allocate additional funding for the UK’s nationwide broadband network, rather than limiting it to particular cities.

The government has already allocated £530m for rolling out fibre-optic broadband networks across the UK. The investment of public funds is intended to ensure high-speed networks reach areas that might not present an attractive business case to providers such as BT and Virgin Media, including rural areas.

More than half of the this investment – £300 million – will come from the TV licence fee, with the remaining £230 million to be provided from the government purse. The coalition government proposed this idea back in May, as an alternative to the 50p-per-month broadband levy, which was dropped by the Labour government in the closing days of the last parliament.

Around 2 million households will benefit from this investment, according to the review, including some of the most remote areas of the UK. Superfast broadband pilot projects will also be carried out in North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Herefordshire, and the Highlands and Islands.

The government said last week that English councils have until February to apply for funding to assist with the roll-out of superfast broadband in rural areas.

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