TODAY Newcastle launched plans to become one of the UK’s first super-connected cities in a scheme that will boost the city’s economy by a predicted £150 million.
Go Digital Newcastle, a government scheme delivered by Newcastle City Council, will see 97% of Newcastle given access to superfast fibre broadband by 2015, free Wi-Fi in Newcastle City Centre, a cloud computing centre, business connection vouchers and a business support programme.
The UK Broadband Impact Study published this year by analysts SQW concluded for every £1 invested in broadband by government the UK economy will benefit by £20.
Council leader Cllr Nick Forbes said: “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.
“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 is one of 22 super-connected cities where small businesses (SMEs), charities and social enterprises can apply for connection vouchers worth up to £3,000 to get connected to high speed/high grade broadband with one of nearly two hundred registered suppliers.
Local businesses, charities and social enterprises are being urged to sign up for a connection voucher. It’s a fantastic opportunity to open up a world of superfast opportunities for their organisation. They will also be able to benefit from a free business support programme offering digital master classes and workshops, delivered by BE Group.
Visitors to the city and people needing internet access while on the move will have access to free Wi-Fi across the city and in public buildings, in high streets and there are plans to bring it onto the Metro
Newcastle householders will also benefit if they choose to upgrade to fibre broadband at home. Superfast connection speeds mean everyone in the family can do their own thing online at the same time, from downloading HD movies to file sharing, accessing public services and chatting to friends and family on Skype.
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central said Newcastle needs to be at the heart of the digital economy and Go Digital Newcastle’s superfast broadband has a critical part to play.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Digital pioneer Herb Kim said: “At the Thinking Digital Conference, we’ve seen example after example about the positive impact that broadband connectivity has made all around the world.
“And in the case of broadband speed and capacity, faster is definitely better.
“Faster broadband means our businesses can be more competitive, our research more intensive and our collaboration made all the easier. It is the fundamental foundation for a 21st Century economy.
“It’s great news that Go Digital Newcastle will be dramatically improving Newcastle's broadband speeds and hence our ability to connect with and collaborate in the modern global economy."
Under the Go Digital Newcastle initiative, BT was awarded the contract to deploy fibre broadband across the city. Previously, broadband was mostly carried on copper cables, which meant that the further away from an exchange you were, the slower your broadband was.
Now, copper is being replaced by state-of-the-art fibre optic cabling to cabinets in streets across Newcastle, delivering speeds of up to 80Mbps – most businesses and homes will be able to access 30Mbps or higher.
The network will be open to all communications providers on an equal wholesale basis, so householders and businesses will benefit from a highly competitive market.
Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director of next generation access, added: “Newcastle is the major cultural and economic centre of the North East and as a result residents and businesses are demanding faster and better broadband connectivity.
“Already in Newcastle more than 66,000 homes and businesses can access fibre broadband on BT’s network and this figure grows daily. Many local businesses are already feeling the benefits. But I hope our investment in and partnership with Go Digital Newcastle will help to push fibre as far as it can go in a city being branded as ‘tech’s best kept secret’ and ‘the place to be for digital start-ups outside London.’”
Around £9m of public funding is being put into Go Digital Newcastle. Funding comes from:
- The Local/Rural Broadband Programme, co-funded by the Council, the Government and BT. BT is investing £1.89m, with the Council investing £970,000 plus £970,000 from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) Local/Rural Broadband Programme fund.
- The Government’s Super Connected Cities Programme, covers the Broadband Connection Voucher scheme, Wi-Fi in the city and on the Metro and the Cloud Innovation Centre.
- ERDF and the Council are funding the Business Support programme of training and masterclasses.
DCMS Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: "Today businesses expect and demand faster and faster broadband to compete in the global race and the Government’s connection vouchers will be an important tool for cities in helping to address that demand.
“The UK already does more business online than any other European country and Government’s investment in superconnected cities, like Newcastle, will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.”
Cllr Forbes said: “This initiative means Newcastle will be one of the best-connected cities in the UK, which gives our local economy huge advantages when it comes to competitiveness and attracting business.
“And for local residents who sign up with a supplier to receive superfast broadband at home, it will revolutionise the way they shop, find information, download entertainment and compare prices – it’s like turbo-charging your lifestyle.”To find out more about Go Digital Newcastle and the Connection Voucher scheme, visit the new website at www.godigitalnewcastle.co.uk/business.