Newcastle Super Connected City Plan Offers Free Wi-Fi And SMB Vouchers

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Newcastle targets 97 percent superfast broadband coverage as part of super connected city scheme

Newcastle has outlined its vision to become one of the UK’s first super-connected cities, with government funding set to provide businesses with connection vouchers and a public Wi-Fi network to complement the ongoing Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK)-funded rollout of fibre in the city.

Go Digital Newcastle plans to see 97 percent of the city receive access to superfast broadband, and will also establish a cloud computing centre in the city and will provide businesses with workshops and digital masterclasses.

“Superfast broadband can help turn local heroes into superheroes – our city-based businesses can use the faster speeds to reach new markets and products and compete on both a national and international scale,” said Newcastle City Council leader Cllr Nick Forbes.

“The economic benefits to the city will be significant and further cement Newcastle’s reputation as an exciting place to live and work. Go Digital Newcastle will boost the local economy and help create and protect local jobs.”

Newcastle broadband

Newcastle United St James's ParkNewcastle is one of 22 UK cities chosen to participate in the government’s super connected cities scheme, which has been watered down from its initial vision of council-built fibre and Wi-Fi networks to a system of grants following legal challenges by BT and Virgin Media.

SMBs, charities and social enterprises can apply for connection vouchers worth up to £3,000 to get superfast broadband, while the Wi-Fi network will be free for residents and visitors in the city centre and public buildings, with plans to extend it to the Tyne and Wear Metro.

BT was chosen by Newcastle City Council last year to extend fibre coverage to areas of the city that would not be covered by commercial deployments of superfast broadband, and it is hoped that the initiative will attract business to the city, with local leaders believing the Go Digital Newcastle scheme could be worth as much as £150 million to the local economy.

Economic boost

“Good connections bring huge benefits to people both in their work and in their home life – in today’s fast-moving world, they’re a necessity rather than a luxury,” said Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central. “They will make Newcastle even more attractive to organisations looking for a base, with world-class connections, while enhancing the activities of our local businesses, helping create and safeguard jobs.”

Including the previously-announced £3.8 million BDUK project, the scheme is worth £9 million, with the super connected cities funding the voucher scheme, Wi-Fi network and cloud innovation centre and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the City Council paying for the business support programme.

Other super-connected city initiatives include free Wi-Fi networks in Leeds, Bradford and Cardiff, while Edinburgh and Birmingham were forced to abandon plans to build their own fibre networks in favour of a public Wi-Fi offering.

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